Pilot project with "green strips" helps save buildings in Maple Canyon fire

Published: Thursday, Sept. 1 2011 12:00 p.m. MDT

A helicopter gets ready to drop water on the Maple Canyon fire on Thursday. Utah fire officials report that as of Monday, the state had logged 852 fires this season, with more than half of the blazes started by lightning strikes.

Mike Anderson, Deseret News

PROMONTORY — A pilot project used widely in the Promontory area of Box Elder County is proving successful in the wake of a 5,000-acre lightning caused fire burning on private rangeland.

Green strips are swaths of trenched ground where native seeds and vegetation have been planted that retain their moisture content.

Those strips are credited with helping to slow the fire's march toward a ranch house and outbuildings in what's been named the Maple Canyon fire burning 20 miles north of Promontory Point.

"If it were not for those green strips it would be right up against the ranch house," said Jason Curry, a spokesman with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

The fire was reported at 7:30 p.m after lightning hit the area. It easily grew to 1,000 acres and had reached 5,000 acres by Thursday afternoon, drawing out suppression efforts from helicopters and ground crews. Curry said it is 55 percent contained.

Firefighters also black-lined, or burned, an area of ground around threatened buildings to act as a buffer zone, Curry said, and the red flag warning issued earlier was rescinded because the winds are blowing quite as hard.

The green strips have been part of a cooperative project carried out by the state, the county and private land owners as part of a conservation approach to manage wide expanses of rangeland easily threatened by summer-time fires.

In place of the invasive weeds and cheat grass devoid of moisture, green strips are planted to serve as fire breaks.

"The design and purpose of it is when that fire hits that green strip, it slows way down," Curry said.

"It has been an ongoing project for the last three or four years," he said, "and this has been a good test of it. They did what they were supposed to do."

Elsewhere in the state, the Toquerville Falls Fire in southern Utah has forced the closure of all trails in the Kolob Canyon section of Zion National Park.

The precautionary closure is for all trails that lead into the area and include LaVerkin Creek, Hop Valley and Timber Creek Overlook trails.

The lightning-caused fire is burning on Black Ridge near Toquerville Falls on Bureau of Land Management lands, north of Toquerville. Estimated at 150 acres, the fire is being pushed toward the park by strong gusty winds as strong as 40 mph. Because of its remote location and lack of roads in the area, the fire is being fought through use of three helicopters and three aerial tankers.

Utah fire officials report that as of Monday, the state had logged 852 fires this season, with more than half caused by lightning.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com, Twitter: amyjoi16

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