Wildland Firefighters Prepare For Fire Season
Apr 29, 2021, 6:30 PM | Updated: 9:34 pm
CAMP WILLIAMS, Utah – Firefighters began training for what they predict will be a busy season.
What’s concerning to a lot of them, is that between Davis, Salt Lake, and Utah Counties, there have already been a good number of grass fires over the past month.
It’s hard to predict the future, but firefighters are taking that as a cue to be ready.
Many of the wildland firefighters are just that – they come on each season to help through what’s typically the busiest time of year.
Unified Fire Authority has over 50 staff that come on for the wildland season. They’re also contracted to protect Camp Williams, which spans about 28,000 acres.
On Thursday they were out digging trenches, and practicing their attack for brush fires.
The majority of those can be prevented, since most wildland fires are caused by people.
Unified Fire spokesman, Matt McFarland said their biggest tool is educating the public in fire safety.
“When you look at the statistics, between 75 and 90 percent of all wildfires are human caused,” McFarland said. “And that’s where education comes in. These guys are prepared to work on those fires; to go to work, to put them out as necessary.”
A big part of the prediction for a busy fire season is because Utah is still facing a drought. The concern is that there could be a lot of fires this year if people don’t step up and do their part to prevent them.
They may not have flames, but ground crews are preparing just the same. More than fifty seasonal wildland firefighters are priming their skills at Camp Williams.
“Many of them are long-term, returning employees,” McFarland said. “These are guys that know their work cycle is cyclical, and they’re going to come back every year, and they take a lot of pride in being wildland firefighters in the summer.”
He the tactics for fighting wildland fires are very different than with structure fires.
“It’s labor intensive,” he said. “There’s a lot of knowledge that goes into it.”
They are digging lines, preparing to cut down trees, and practicing using emergency shelters, for those worst-case possibilities.
The tactic is more about taking fuels away rather than dousing the large fires.
“We don’t usually have the advantage of water at our disposal,” McFarland said. “We’re also in an area that’s hard to access. Usually they’re hiking in to get to these fires, and they’re fighting them with hand-tools instead of hose-lines.”
Unified Fire is also contracted to help protect Camp Williams – something that came on after the Machine Gun Fire, back in 2010.
“These guys go out there, and they put themselves in harm’s way, but I know for a fact that all wildland firefighters love this job. They love the physicality of it,” McFarland said.
But McFarland says they also need all of us to do our part.
“Utah’s a great state for outdoor recreation, and we need to outdoor recreationalists to be hyper aware of where they are, and what they’re doing,” he said.
Many of those wildland firefighters will also go out and help with large fires around the country this summer.
McFarland said those experiences help back here too, because they bring back the knowledge, what they see out there and pass it on to firefighters here in Utah.