Nibley to join in state wildland fire prevention program

Nibley to join in state wildland fire prevention program

28 August 2017

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USA – The state has a hot deal for municipalities throughout the state, and Nibley city plans to take them up on it.

If a fire originates within an eligible community and expands into state or federal lands, the state will cover the costs associated with putting that fire out so long as the city is spending a certain amount on wildfire prevention and education, according to Cache County Fire Marshal Jason Winn.

City planner Stephen Nelson said Nibley officials look on it as a win-win: “It encourages us to do things we should be being anyway, but it also allows us to go to the the state if it becomes necessary.”

There is a price of course, but it is so minimal that Winn said it would be silly not to participate.

The state has conducted a risk assessment for each community and assigned a dollar amount so that high-risk communities are “paying” more. But they are not paying that money to the state, Winn said.

Instead, each community will be required to spend that money on eligible prevention, preparedness or mitigation projects that will reduce the risk of wildland fires.

In the case of Nibley, Nelson said the city’s risk assessment places their required contribution at $577 per year.

At least half of that amount must be applied toward vegetation management and can include the cost of labor and equipment used to reduce dangerous fuels. No more than 25 percent of the money spent goes toward preparedness, which can include things like wildland training or equipment. The remainder can be used to educate the public with the goal reducing the number of fires caused by humans.

Meeting these requirements directly benefits the participating agencies, and in the long run, each small step at the local level has a cumulative effect on the state as a whole.

Wildland fires can become large and very costly in a short period of time at rates that are crippling to small communities that have limited funding.

The Brian Head fire this summer is one example Winn said. The fire started in the town of Brian Head, a very small community in southern Utah. Over a period of about four weeks, it burned more than 70,000 acres across two counties, on state and federal lands — to the tune of about $34 million.

In a similar situation, the state would pick up a participating city’s portion of fighting the fire, relieving that city of the high burden associated with large fires.

The cooperative agreement is a completely voluntary, renewable five-year contract. It is a program that is most useful to communities that border state and federal lands, so while it might benefit cities along the valley’s east bench, it is less helpful to communities that are made up of rural farmlands that are more prone to grass fires.

Nelson outlined the benefits of the program for the City Council last week. Local fire departments will maintain their role in fire suppression until that fire department requests assistance or state and federal lands become involved. After fires are delegated to the state, the state will pay for extended attack and all aircraft costs.

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