By UFA Chief Mike Watson
The months of July, August and September are potentially busy months for firefighters, with many wildfires and urban interface fires. These incidents are attributed to such factors such as high temperatures, low relative humidity, wind, a lack of rainfall, lightning and human activities like campfires, fireworks and careless use of matches or butane lighters.
This year, we have responded to fires during the latter part of July and early August. Many of you may have seen news coverage of fires in Salt Lake and Utah Counties as well as other parts of Utah. There have been several fires in other western states as well; some of which have been devastating. A potentially devastating fire in the foothills above Draper was contained in early August, thanks to the aggressive actions of crews from Unified Fire and other fire agencies in the Salt Lake Valley. More than 30 homes were evacuated and many of them were threatened by active fire. We also had a fire in the Hughes Canyon area (east of Old Mill Golf Course) just a day or two before the fire in Draper. Firefighters were able to stop that fire before it burned any homes as well.
The UFA arson bureau is investigating these fires to determine what caused them. The initial investigation suggests that unfortunately, both fires appear to be human caused. Such fires can be extraordinarily expensive to mitigate due to the number of crewmembers, special equipment and aircraft needed to extinguish them. Especially when a fire is determined to have started due to recklessness or intent, our arson investigators will work tirelessly to identify and prosecute the arsonist(s). This includes the possibility of charging guilty parties for suppression costs, which could cause financial ruin for those individuals and their families.
UFA is asking everyone to be diligent and responsible when in our urban interface areas. Be alert to your surroundings and please report suspicious activities.