Utahns' carelessness is putting firefighters' lives at risk

Friday , September 01, 2017 - 4:30 AM

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

Through early August, humans caused nearly 400 wildfires in Utah.

The list potentially grew by one this week — one more preventable fire that put firefighters’ lives at risk.

A grass fire that started Tuesday in the foothills south of Bountiful continued to burn Thursday, the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache Forest Service reported.

  • RELATED: “Bountiful grass fire still at 75 acres, 25 percent contained Thursday morning”

The fire scorched 75 acres by 11 a.m. Thursday. Seventy firefighters responded, along with a helicopter.

They held their ground, containing 25 percent of the fire.

Investigators continue to investigate the fire’s cause, but they believe a human started it.

Brian Cottam, director of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, testified in August before a legislative appropriations committee. Through early August, Cottam said, the state reported 397 wildfires.

That works out to nearly 50 wildfires a month.

"That number is extremely high," Cottam said. "They do not need to happen."

Fighting the wildfires cost $18 million, Cottam told the Deseret News.

Utah could change people’s lives with $18 million. It could educate children, address sexual violence, shelter the homeless and improve air quality — among other things.

Instead, it’s watching $18 million go up in smoke. All because Utahns don’t value lives and property.

If that sounds harsh toward Utahns, consider this: Through the first week of August, Nevada reported 30 human-caused wildfires, Cottam told lawmakers.

Thirty.

How are Utahns setting wildfires? Often, by discharging fireworks and target shooting in restricted areas, Cottam noted.

But he said sparks from vehicles start more Utah wildfires than anything else, and a lot of those sparks come from chains on trailers.

The next time you go target shooting or hook up your trailer for a weekend at the lake, you need to pause and think about the 70 firefighters in the Bountiful foothills.

They’re living, breathing human beings. They’ve got families and friends. And when your careless behavior sparks a wildfire, you put their lives at risk.

They deserve better.

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