National Guard, residents combat mudslides from Pole Creek, Bald Mountain fires

Residents of Woodland Hills worked throughout the day filling and placing sandbags. (John Wallace)

Government forces and community members worked together to help prevent further damages to Woodland Hills and Elk Ridge properties after the recent fires left residents’ property vulnerable to flooding and mudslides, caused by Tropical Storm Rosa.

As of Oct. 2, the Bald Mountain fire covers 18,620 acres and is 100 percent contained. The Pole Creek Fire covers 102,231 acres and is 87 percent contained, according to Utah Fire Info.

The Bald Mountain and Pole Creek fires devastated the land surrounding Woodland Hills and Elk Ridge. The fires created massive burn scars across the mountains and destroyed vegetation which increases the probability of flash floods and mudslides, according to Major D.J Gibb of the Utah National Guard.

Gibb said Gov. Gary Herbert activated 200 members of the Utah National Guard on Monday, Oct. 1 to assist in relief and preparation efforts. The Utah National Guard prepared residential areas by placing barriers, making sandbags, moving debris and keeping water flow areas clear.

Gibb said the guard members arrived in the evening on Oct. 1 and helped residents put together 19,000 sandbags and place 4,000 feet of concrete barriers which were provided by the Utah Department of Transportation. The National Guard provided bulldozers, vans, loaders and dump trucks to help move around the people and the dirt.

The National Guard and community member efforts are in response to the current flood and mudslide threats and are to prevent future damage to the communities.

“With this burn scarring, it’s going to be months and years ahead where they are going to have to be careful with water saturation on the mountainside,” Gibb said. “So the efforts we’re taking today will hopefully help mitigate some of that, should the water run off into these communities.”

Elk Ridge city officials are currently working on a long-term recovery plan. Officials will study how and where the water will flow, said Royce Swensen, an Elk Ridge city recorder.

“We need to know things like, are we dealing with just water or debris? We have engineers involved and experts in areas that will help us understand that,” Swensen added.

Richard Woodruff, the communications director of the Utah Nevada Region Red Cross said the Red Cross is not directly involved in the relief efforts but is ready to provide help if needed. Much of what the Red Cross does is provide mass care in the forms of food and shelter.

We’re all about preparedness. We’ll always be disseminating information on flood and mudslide safety and preparedness. Our whole cycle is about preparing, responding and recovering to disasters,” Woodruff said.

The American Red Cross’s website has tips for responding to natural disasters and apps to help residents stay prepared.

19,000 sandbags were made using sandbagging machines provided by the National Guard. (John Wallace)

Residents also provided relief to those at risk from the mudslides in Elk Ridge, Woodland Hills and neighboring cities by helping fill sandbags and moving barriers.

“Everybody’s involvement has been wonderful. Our neighboring communities have been wonderful. Everything has been handled well. We have seen service and miracles on a daily basis,” said John Wallace, a Woodland Hills resident.

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