Burn costs Forest Service $33,000

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    By Annie Reynolds

    The U.S. Forest Service will pay the Utah government $33,000 for future prescribed burns and training employees instead of paying a more costly fine for the 2003 Cascade Springs II burn.

    “We felt it was a good result,” Sprott said. “It will be useful to them, and meets the needs of the people in Utah.”

    In September 2003, a prescribed burn in Cascades Springs was scheduled to only clear 600 acres. But the U.S. Forest Service lost control of the fire, which ended up burning 7,800 acres. Wasatch Front valley filled with smoke for a week.

    As a result, the Utah Division of Air Quality filed a notice of violation against the Forest Service, claiming the Forest Service didn”t submit a plan with the division before starting the fire and the fire polluted state urban areas.

    The initial violation notice called for the Forest Service to be charged up to $10,000 for each day the air quality standards were violated.

    Instead, the Forest Service will pay $25,000 for air monitors to be used around future prescribed burns, and $8,000 for workshops and training employees, totaling $33,000.

    Also, the Forest Service revised their standard burn plan to prevent an uncontrolled burn from happening again. The plan will require more people and equipment working on the burn and outline ways to bring things under control if the fire or situation gets out of control.

    “We have a standard burn plan which requires a peer review,” said Erin O”Connor, director of communications for the inter-mountain region of the U.S. Forest Service. “The plan is reviewed by someone who is qualified. During the review process any shortcomings or oversights into the burn plan should be identified.”

    The Forest Service is using the peer review plan for the prescribed burn at Halls Fork, scheduled for Oct. 12.

    “They are definitely moving in the right direction,” Sprott said. “When you are dealing with forest and fire, things may be great when you light the match – but if there is a change things can go wrong.”

    Sprott said changes in weather may determine if a prescribed burn will actually take place. The Halls Fork fire will only be executed if all conditions are favorable.

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