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Arson incidents, fireworks, high wildfire danger draw official plea for public vigilance

By Mark Shenefelt standard-Examiner - | Jun 16, 2021

Local authorities on Wednesday asked residents to help keep a watchful eye for fires along the area’s river trails amid the summer’s extreme heat and drought.

Ogden Fire Department Deputy Chief Shelby Willis said two significant threatening blazes in the past week underscore the danger presented by this season’s unusually high risk.

Fires on Friday at Fort Buenaventura and in the area of 3400 Parker Drive on Saturday, both along the Weber River parkway, were especially threatening. The 8-acre Parker Drive fire, in fact, is still being worked with backhoes and UTVs and monitored because of persistent smoldering, Willis said.

“We’ve been back every day since,” she said. “What happens is the fire gets really down into the dry debris, and water and foam can’t penetrate it.”

Several agencies, the Ogden and Riverdale fire and police departments along with the Weber Fire District and Weber County Sheriff’s Office, issued an appeal to the public urging vigilance on the trails.

“With record-setting high temperatures and our current drought conditions, (the agencies) are concerned about individuals not exercising fire safety or purposely setting fires” on the trails, the announcement said.

Officials urged residents to call 911 if they spot a fire or see someone lighting one. Those with information about illegal setting of fires are urged to call the county tip hotline at 801-778-6631.

Firefighters have been on high alert since someone set 11 fires June 3 along the river trail in West Haven and Marriott-Slaterville.

“We are not going to be passive about it,” said David Reed, Weber Fire District deputy chief and fire marshal. “If somebody knows something, we’d like them to help us. They’re the ones who will see it happening. We just can’t be down on the trails all the time.”

The parkway areas are a concern because of large amounts of vegetation, and more of it dry this year.

Willis said the Ogden Fire Department increased its summer grass fire capability in April, earlier than usual because of the drought.

Additional units will be assigned around the July 4 holiday as residents use fireworks. “Our concern is obviously the potential for fire, but we don’t think people will stop purchasing fireworks, nor should they,” Willis said. “We just hope people are safe doing so.”

Stray fireworks can cost people their homes or livelihoods, she said. “What goes up must come down. And a sparkler burns at 2,000 degrees. It’s only for a few seconds but it’s just enough to ignite dry brush.”


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