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Davis Journal

South Davis Metro Fire is preparing now for wildfire season

May 12, 2022 10:59AM ● By Becky Ginos

South Davis Metro firefighter Jason Octave demonstrates the use of the portable gear for brush fires while Captain Tyler Scharman checks his progress. Crews train regularly to be prepared for wildfire season. Photo by Roger V. Tuttle

BOUNTIFUL—Summer is around the corner, and with it comes fireworks, campfires, barbecues – and wildfires. South Davis Metro Fire crews are gearing up to be ready if a wildfire hits, but they also need the public’s cooperation to help prevent fires in the first place.

“We encourage people to attend city sponsored fireworks events,” said SDMF Deputy Chief Greg Stewart. “We’d rather they don’t light fireworks but they’re going to, so be sure to submerge firecrackers in water overnight. We often see dumpster fires the next day.”

 People like to have fun and they don’t think of little smoke bombs or sparklers as being dangerous, more the big aerials that go into the sky, he said. “But a lot of the ones on the ground get kicked into the grass inadvertently and suddenly the grass is on fire and moves to your neighbor’s house. We’d like to mitigate it before it becomes something big.”

The majority of fires are human caused, said Stewart. “We’re our own worst enemy. Make sure your barbecue ashes are out. We had some scouts who dumped charcoal briquettes in the landscape by a bush next to a church. They didn’t think about it because they thought they were out and it started a fire.”

It’s usually the smaller things that people don’t think are a big deal, he said. “Make sure your campfire is out. Douse it with water until it’s cold to the touch. We recommend stirring it up with a shovel to make sure the water has penetrated all the way down.”

That’s what caused the Gun Range Fire, Stewart said. “It had not been put out. They just left it. The wind kicked up and blew it down into homes. I was the incident commander on that. It was the longest two days of my life. It was a miracle that we only lost two homes instead of losing neighborhoods that night. It was unbelievable.”

Stewart encourages residents living on the bench to create a defensible space area to defend their home from wildfires. “Remove brush and leaves at least 100 feet from your home,” he said. “Don’t have any landscape like that right against your deck or home. That can become fuel. It’s like a wick and the fire is going to go right into the house.”

The same for rain gutters, said Stewart. “Clear out leaves and debris. A fire starts throwing embers and lights the fuels in them. Sometimes you see extra firewood piled against the deck. A fire starts in the brush and now the deck and house are too well involved for us to put out.”

Defensible space is the big one, he said. “Everybody likes the natural landscape but a fire can affect your house or your neighbor’s.”

Crews start preparing for the fire season in January, said Stewart. “We check equipment to make sure we’re safe out there to fight a wildfire. Personal equipment like fire resistant clothing, glasses and head lamps. It’s all about prep season right now.”

The SDMF uses a brush truck to fight wildland fires, he said. “It can get into places where large trucks can’t get into.”

Firefighters are also required to pass a physical fitness test each year, Stewart said. “They have to walk three miles wearing a 45 pound pack in 45 minutes. We want to make sure they’re fit to respond. Everybody’s cross trained and certified.”

 Medicals don’t stop during fire season, he said. “We have to keep moving and responding to all those emergencies. It can be taxing with the increased call volume.”

People don’t think it can happen here, said Stewart. “It most definitely can happen here. We want people to be safe, that’s the primary goal. We can replace stuff – we can’t replace people.” λ