Juan Diego students learn experts use science to understand, fight rise in wildfires

By Julie Salama | [email protected]

The headlines were bad: “Smoke covered the West” and “Wild smoke smoke darkened the sky of Utah with an out-of-state fire.”

Along with the weather, fires from California and Oregon were so severe that the quality of the air was so poor that it made Salt Lake, one of the world’s leading air quality monitors in dozens of cities around the world.

The Utah Air Quality Department advises everyone to avoid outdoor activities as much as possible and many schools have canceled their outdoor activities and sports events.

That was the summer of 2021.

Recently, the number of wildfires in Utah has dropped by the end of spring compared to last year.

A.D. At the beginning of June 2022, 177 wildfires burned 564 hectares compared to 326 fires in the same period last year. In both years, man-made fires account for 80 percent of all fires.

A.D. Of the 350 fires recorded in 2020, 81% were saved by firefighters, and firefighters say this is the pressure to relax outdoors during the Covd-19 outbreak.

However, experts warn that dry and volatile conditions could cause long-term fires this summer.

In memory of last summer’s darkness and unhealthy weather, Juan Diego Catholic High School recently hosted a “Fire and Water in the West” symposium.
Challenges around wildfires and urban interactions with climate change. U.S. Forest Service Chemical Engineer Daniel Jimenez and Camp Williams Military Base Fire Management Captain John Slatore spoke to students and community members about wildfires and the future.

Jimenez, who grew up in the Salt Lake Valley and now works with the Fire Science Laboratory in Missoula, Montana, said: “It will change the environment.”

It uses a number of models to see how conditions change each year, often as the climate becomes drier and warmer, combined with a lack of atmospheric vapor pressure to dry plants.

“We are seeing an increasing number of fires in the area and in large areas of fires,” he said.

Jimenez said the U.S. forest service is effective in clearing 97 percent of every fire in 12 to 24 hours, but it is becoming more difficult because many trees in the forest compete for the same or less moisture. And nutritious food, making beetle susceptible to local beetle attacks and ripe for fire.

Although people have a tendency to detect fire damage, forest fires have a positive effect.

“It’s a very positive approach to wildlife and ecology; it’s like cleaning and rejuvenating,” he said.

Jimenez The 1988 fire at the Yellowstone National Park was a tragedy for many who died in the Lodge Pine. But now, years later, those mature trees are dead and new ones are pouring in.

However, the fire rate is increasing.

“We are not alone; It is a matter of the world. ” “Fires around the world are on the rise. We are witnessing more fires. In 2016, Canada had some of the worst wildfires ever. In 2021, Greece had the largest wildfires. Australia had a record number of wildfires by 2020. California has had nine of the largest wildfires in two years.

Jimenez, firefighters at the South Carolina Experimental Institute are learning how to solve the problems of “our new standard”. We are studying where there is a high risk and we are focusing on money and manpower to reduce that risk so we are ready for it when the fire comes out of this landscape. That is happening in the West, but it may not be happening fast enough in your nearest city.

That may sound like a bad thing, but Jimenez says that this might be a fact. However, there is a change related to fire management.

“This strong Machismo man on the ground thought, ‘We’ll put it on the ridge, the fire won’t go away.’ Now we can choose the right path and use our mind and science to be smart in this regard. We must realize that fire is part of our current landscape. We can be aggressive and smart about using wealth and dollars, but there are times when we put up a white flag and change the weather or hit the right valley until we make a difference. Then we can use the resources, technology and capabilities to do it carefully.

Slatore, who worked for the Salt Lake and Logan fire departments, said they could not do it alone.

“The role of the public cannot be diminished,” he said. “We want the building to be 30 feet away from any vegetation, and we need 100 feet of good open country so the risk of home fires is reduced.

Meanwhile, urban worker communities are creating and maintaining fireflies where they meet in the wild. Near Camp Williams, a fire-fighting track is being added.

That may have helped to overcome the problem in 2010 when there was a machine gun that exploded outside the base and destroyed three structures.

“Now look at that landscape. There are 200 houses built in the area of ​​the fire 12 years ago; this seems to be the most advanced of our lending fronts. .

There are other fires, such as Wasatch, which is used for hiking and mountain biking, but staff are needed to protect them.

“These 20 Wildland firefighters are working on their backs in 16-hour shifts and 50-pound packs. They are in front.”Take that fuel out of the fire to try and stop it; We rely on these people, ”he said.

In mechanized equipment, Slatore refers to fire engines that carry 200-800 gallons of water, but are leaning forward. They use bulldozers and graders, as well as 50 gallons of helicopters. He said 11,000 gallons of retrieval aircraft were working ahead of the crews to fight the fire and “make it difficult for the fire to pass through them.”

The difficult thing is that winds limit efficiency and the ability to use aircraft. According to Slatore, the minimum budget for the use of aircraft is “$ 22,000 per hour and $ 60,000 for each delay” and for employees working for firefighting for more than 78 days in the 1980s. .

However, infrastructure is an issue to consider when people build cabinets in the forest or subdivisions continue to approach the forest.

What we saw with the Boulder Fire in December and that county is very similar to us in height and snow, we are seeing something more and more common where it was in California fires. We have partitions with flashes of light in the mountains and it is becoming very common in the West. We’ve been seeing Colorado fires in Oregon for the past few years and now, which is about the same as Cottonwood Heights. We’re talking about 1,000 homes in 100 miles of wind per hour.

A.D. In 2020, there was an 80-acre Nef Canyon fire.

“We left about 6,000 homes – it cost $ 1.9 million,” he said. “The fire at Parlis Canyon was 541 acres and 10,000 people were displaced. We are looking at a cost of $ 3.1 million, and that has not gone unnoticed. ”

According to Slatore, strong winds, old power grids in Utah and Wyoming, like California fires.

“Two years ago, winds from downstream at 70 miles per hour knocked down trees and cut off our cities for a few days,” he said. “When that happened, the hurricane was accelerating and hurting our low-lying communities, making it even more dangerous for dangerous situations.”

To fight those opportunities and others, the crew is moving forward with the scheduled fire, choosing a place and time to start a fire on the ground.

According to Slatore, thousands of hectares of forests are difficult to burn because of the damage caused by cabinets and infrastructure, but if they do not do so, there could be serious consequences.

There is a risk of arson related to the international airport near Salt Lake City and also the risk of “increasing smoke and then low wind population and people with respiratory problems.”

Jimenez added that the US Forest Service is working with timber industries in Oregon, Washington and Montana and Idaho to reduce forests.

“You don’t see big wood coming out of the mill, but it’s good the way we look,” he said. “We are continuing the development of the community. We are achieving our goal by removing fuel from the ground so that we can return fire to the landscape. We are identifying the areas where they will be effective, the area where we are spending the money and the staff that we have to take care of the layout.

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