Firemen set forest ablaze

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    By JASON PARKER

    The Wasatch-Cache National Forest received its first-ever prescribed burn, a planned fire, Wednesday, the first of many for northern Utah in years to come.

    The burn had been in the making for 10 years, said Kathy Jo Pollock, a Wasatch-Cache National Forest spokeswoman.

    The burn covered over 500 acres of aspen, sage and grass in an area known as Red Banks, up Logan Canyon.

    “This burn was a really good success,” said Bret Ruby, a zone fire management officer for both the Wasatch-Cache and Unintah National Forest. “Fuel conditions were almost too wet, but we were able to catch it on a sunny day. … everything just fell together,” he said.

    “We’re breaking some new ground here since we haven’t done anything like this before,” said Bob Tinoli, fire management officer for Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

    The prescribed fires will be used to eliminate heavy fuel areas which may pose a potential threat for future fires, said Dick Klien, public affairs officer for Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

    The fires will also benefit the wild life by regenerating new growth. The newer vegetation is more palatable for deer and elk, Ruby said.

    “We’ve got a build up of vegetation that could be lethal if it were burned (outside controlled conditions),” Ruby said. “Burning will also rejuvenate the aspens and wild life will be in better shape.”

    “For many years, people have thought that fire is bad,” Klien said. “Under the right conditions, fire is beneficial.”

    Conditions are crucial for crews when planning a fire. Relative humidity, temperature, winds and fuel all have to be right before they will set the fire, Klien said.

    One prescribed burn which was scheduled for Tuesday of this week was postponed until next year when conditions will be better, Tinoli said.

    “We have a really small window of opportunity,” said Pollock.

    “Our conditions are set according to our study,” Ruby said. “If we don’t get those conditions then we won’t burn.”

    To set the fires, a helicopter carrying a flammable gel made of gas and powder known as “sure fire” will fly and hover over the designated burn area. The gel is then loaded into a helitorch where it ignites into small fire balls. The helicopter will circle the area and drop the fire onto the ground fuel below, Tinoli said.

    Utahns can expect to see more of their forests being burned in the years to come. Between Provo and Logan an estimated 8,000 acres are scheduled to be burned.

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