Crews clear brush, educate homeowners along Farmington hillside

Friday , June 14, 2013 - 12:04 AM

FARMINGTON — The Black Forest fire in Colorado is a fresh reminder that fire season is here.

That is why Farmington fire and state officials are doing what they can now to hopefully mitigate any damage a wildfire could cause to the foothills this summer.

A 20-member crew with Lone Peak Conservation Center spent three days this week clearing out oak brush and other fuels in the southeast area of Farmington.

Meanwhile, Farmington firefighters have been spending several hours each day going door to door on the east side of the city, handing out brochures with recommendations on how homeowners can make their property safer and how to use fireworks safely.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Farmington Fire Chief Guido Smith.

He said his department did a similar door-to-door campaign last year, and even though there were still some wildland fires in the area, “they were not significant, because our community did a good job to help us, and we appreciated it.”

The door-to-door campaign will continue for the next three to four weeks as part of becoming a “Fire Wise” community, Smith said.

“Some of those fires in the past have come within 200 yards of my home,” said LeRoy Sturgeon, who has lived next to the foothills for the past 35 years.



He was outside watering his lawn when firefighters stopped to talk with him.

“This year, the fire danger is going to be high, so it’s good to know what we should do,” Sturgeon said.

When he first moved into his home, Sturgeon planted as much vegetation as he could around it. Now, he said, he spends countless hours “hacking it out to keep it away from my house.”

The sound of chain saws could be heard above one neighborhood as crews hired by the state removed excess oak brush and other foliage from an area between residences and U.S. Forest Service lands. The area cleared is about a 4-acre spot, Smith said.

Piles of chips will be transported to the city’s public works office next week, and those who want to use the chips in their landscaping can take as much as they want at no charge, Smith said.

A grant the city and state received from the U.S. Forest Service is paying for the removal of excess oak brush and other foliage in the Farmington foothills, said Trent Bristol, the wildland urban interface coordinator for the Wasatch Front with the state Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

The crew will be out again over the summer to continue to clear more area, Smith said.

Kevin Frank, a foreman with the crew, said their priority is to mitigate and suppress any potential excess vegetation without causing soil erosion.

When a wildfire does occur, Frank said, the dried grasses are not the problem because, although they will burn fast, they go out quickly. It is the oak brush that causes the fire to continue to burn.

When the oak brush is compacted and thick, it is much harder to extinguish a fire, Frank said.

When his crews are done with an area, it looks good enough for a picnic site.

For more information on how to protect property from wildfires and to prepare for a wildfire, go to www.firewise.org.

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