The fire above Draper this week is a startling reminder that too many Utah communities have allowed development in areas where fires and erosion from floods are constant dangers. It also was a reminder to people who live in or near mountainous terrain to take precautions. Unfortunately, too few homeowners have learned how to protect their investment.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect to this fire, which grew to more than 800 acres, is that it was human-caused. Human carelessness and sometime deliberate and criminal recklessness are the wild cards when one lives in fire-prone parts of a dry climate. That makes precautions all the more important.
Fortunately, no one was injured, and no property was lost during this fire. Still, it came within several hundred yards of homes on Monday, causing officials to evacuate people from 112 houses. Favorable winds turned the flames in a different direction on Tuesday. Unfortunately, people in Boise weren't as lucky this week. Officials there found a badly burned body inside one of 10 houses destroyed by a wildfire.
In the West, such fires are not unusual. They are to be expected this time of year as vegetation becomes tinder dry and reckless human behavior is compounded by the occasional lightning strike and windstorm. And once the fires are done, they give way to flooding dangers.
Anyone who lives near a wild area should learn the precautions against fire. The most important of these is to establish a buffer zone between your home and the surrounding wilderness. Some officials recommend doing this in four zones. The first, nearest the house, should consist of well-irrigated and carefully spaced plants that don't easily burn. The next zone should consist of low-growing plants and also should be kept well-watered. The third zone should consist of well-spaced trees with little vegetation at the bottom. Finally, the last zone can include more natural vegetation, but this should be kept pruned and cleaned of the type of growth that could fuel fires.
The houses themselves should be free of wood shingles, and gutters should be kept clean of leaves and other combustibles. Building materials should be fire-resistant, and doors should be metal.
Even with these precautions, a fast-moving wildfire could destroy a home. But with precautions, people at least have a fighting chance. That chance becomes especially precious each year at this time as flames intrude on the natural beauties near Utah's populated areas.