Over the past few years the state of Utah has been experiencing a higher frequency of both wildland and urban interface fires. The intent of the Utah Wildland Engine Training was to gather personnel from multiple fire departments in one location to train. Their objective was to refresh understanding of wildland fire tactics and strategies, by utilizing hands-on training.
On Friday, April 19, participants were treated to a dinner at the Grand Center, which was followed by a lesson on fire behavior and fire fighting tactics. The next morning, hands-on training took place on state lands south of Ken’s Lake in upper Spanish Valley for a daylong exercise involving fire engines during various fire scenarios.
This week, the fire department also received 15 sets of used self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) units, which are worn by firefighters when they enter burning buildings to protect them from hot and poisonous air. The gift of the SCBA was from the Price City Fire Department after it purchased new, more sophisticated SCBA units for its firefighters.
Although used, the Price equipment is in excellent condition and will replace Castle Valley Fire Department’s aging inventory of breathing equipment. In addition to the SCBA sets, the department also received an extra 20 air cylinders, which hold about 30 minutes of compressed air that fire personnel use to breath when entering a smoke-filled building. The 15 sets of SCBA include a facemask, harness and air cylinder and are worth thousands of dollars when purchased new.
It is hard to believe but it has been 10 years ago this week that this column reported on the open house for the new fire station of the Castle Valley Fire Department. A lot of people dropped by to view the new building, the vehicles and other equipment and enjoy sandwiches and drinks. Most of the volunteer fire personnel were also on hand to visit and answer questions of the visitors. Some even shot a few baskets at the basketball hoop set up at the station.
We are now entering a new wildfire season and people are encouraged to get ready for the fire season by creating an effective defensible space around our homes and property. A defensible space is a six-step process of, first, determining the recommended space distance. The space area is usually expressed as a distance extending outward from the sides of the house. Step two is to remove dead vegetation within the space. That includes dead trees and shrubs, dead branches lying on the ground or still attached to living plants. The third step is to break up continuous vegetation. The more continuous and dense the vegetation, the greater the wildfire threats. You should break it up by providing for a separation between plants or small groups of plants. Step four involves removing ladder fuels. Vegetation is often present at varying heights, similar to the rungs of a ladder and that allows a fire to move from lower growing plants to taller ones and is referred to as ladder fuel.
Lean, clean and green is the desired outcome for step five. Lean – small amounts of flammable vegetation; clean – no accumulation of dead vegetation or other flammable debris; and green – plants are healthy and green during the fire season. Step six is to maintain the vegetation within the recommended defensible space area on a regular basis. An effective defensible space can be quickly diminished through neglect.
Homeowners who follow these six steps around their homes will likely not be affected by wildfires depending on the construction, location and materials of the home.
The Castle Valley Fire Department was called to service 30 years ago this week to respond to assist in a structure fire in Cisco by the State Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. The 1,200-gallon tanker/pumper unit was dispatched but was turned back when it was feared that the engine would be too heavy for the old Dewey Bridge.