Wildfire is the most prevalent natural disturbance in the State of Utah, and it affects biotic communities statewide. It is an integral component of our forest, range, and desert lands and affects thousands of acres on an annual basis.
Related resources for County planning include the following:
|http://gis.wfrc.org/arcgis/rest/services/CRMP/FireManagement_Service/MapServer||n||Fire Regime Group||ref-FireManagement||5|
US 130FRG= LANDFIRE Fire Regime Groups.
Download mxd The ESRI mxd file of the services used to create the above map.
The GeoMAC data is live data about current large fires. In the map these layers have the names Large Fire Points, Fire Perimeters, Modis Thermal Satellite, and Inactive Fire Perimeters.
Wildfire is the most prevalent natural disturbance in the State of Utah, and it affects biotic communities statewide. It is an integral component of our forest, range, and desert lands and affects thousands of acres on an annual basis. Below is a compilation of Utah wildland fire statistics for the latest 5 years (see table below).
The Burn Locations data (points) and the Burn Areas data (polygons) contains past fires (fire history) for Utah. These data layers can be used to identify areas of the county that historically have had many wildland fires.
Response to fire incidents relies on proper oversight, guidance, and partnership among a variety of trained professional organizations. Establishing a fire management system is a critical step in protecting communities both urban and rural. Fire management refers to the principles and actions to control, extinguish, use, or influence fire for the protection or enhancement of resources as it pertains to wildlands. It involves a multiple-objective approach strategy including ecosystem restoration, community preparedness, and wildfire response. Wildfires do not adhere to political boundaries, and cooperation among different agencies and jurisdictions covering federal, state, county, municipal, and rural/ volunteer fire departments is essential for successful fire management response. In Utah the state legislature tasked the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands to devise a Comprehensive Statewide Wildland Fire Prevention, Preparedness, and Suppression policy known as SB-56. Under this plan a master cooperative wildland fire management and Stafford Act response agreement is signed each year between numerous federal land management agencies and the State of Utah for cooperation during wildland fire incidents that occur throughout the state.Wildland fire statistics for the latest 5 years.
|Year||Total Number of Fires||% of Fires on Federal Lands||% of Fires on State or Private Lands||Total Acres Burned||% of Acres Burned on Federal Lands||% of Acres Burned on State or Private Lands|
This section of the report outlines the many aspects regarding fire management including, fire resource descriptions, impact considerations, best management practices (BMPs), economic considerations, supporting fire data useful for county services, and relevant fire agency contact information.
Response to a wildland fire can involve a basic monitoring status placed on a remote wilderness fire, or involve multiple agencies overseen by an incident-management team encompassing hundreds of firefighters to manage. A basic overview of how a wildland fire is fought in the state can be found here. Ultimately, once a fire is reported it is often forwarded from a local 911 dispatch center to the Northern Utah Interagency Fire Center (NUIFC). This multi-agency organization is tasked with keeping track of wildland firefighting resources throughout northern Utah and coordinating the response of resources to wildfire incidents throughout the their area of coverage.
Numerous personnel are trained to respond to wildfires throughout Utah and the services they provide are dependent upon the role of their organization as assigned during an incident. At a basic level, firefighting resources can be grouped into two broad categories, ground resources and air resources. Often times both types of resources are dispatched to a fire. Below is a brief outline of the available resources for each category.
Ground Resources: Federal and State
There are two main firefighting groups that fall within this category; they include handcrews and engines. Handcrews are specifically trained to fight wildfires. They often consist of 18–20 individuals who are responsible for constructing firelines. Hand crews use tools such as scrapes, pulaskis, chainsaws, and shovels to stop fire spread. They are also well trained to execute backfire operations to stop fire spread. Many supervisors of handcrews are qualified to be incident commanders and be in charge of protecting property and infrastructure (e.g., homes and buildings) and for implementing overall plans to extinguish fire.
Wildland engines are specially equipped fire engines, often with all-terrain capabilities, to transport water to firelines. Engine crews consist of 3–5 individuals that use hoses, pumps, and provide water support to extinguish fires. They can also be used to construct firelines. Engine resources are categorized by size and water capacity, ranging from type 6 (which hold 150–400 gallons) to type 3 (which hold 500+ gallons).
Both handcrews and engine crews are sponsored by federal land management agencies the US Forest Service, US Bureau of Land Management, US National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the US Bureau of Indian Affairs. Although crews are attached to particular National Forests, wildlife refuges, etc., almost all are are considered national resources and may be dispatched to fires all across the country. For example, federal firefighters based outside of Utah can be sent to fight fires in Utah.
In addition to having access to federal crews, the State of Utah trains and provides both handcrews and engine crews that can be used both in Utah and also dispatched nationally through a cooperative agreement with other agencies. In northern Utah, the Lone Peak Conservation Center, located in Draper, hosts two “hotshot” (or elite) handcrews, two type II handcrews, as well as one type 3 engine. Both Utah County and Weber County host their own handcrews. Assisting with fire prevention as well as suppression are county fire wardens who work for the Utah Department of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands.
Links to local firefighting organizations:
- Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest Fire Management
- US Bureau of Land Management-Salt Lake District Fire Management
Ground Resources: County, Municipal, and Rural
Primarily responsible for structure and accident response, city and town fire departments also provide wildland training and are often the first responders to fires in the urban-interface within incorporated municipalities. These resources are often assigned to structure protection operations, or utilize hose/water capabilities to create wetlines to keep fire from spreading into neighborhoods. It is not uncommon along the Wasatch Front to see municipal and specific wildland fire trained units working on a wildfire together. In rural, unincorporated areas, volunteer fire departments (VFDs) are often the first on the scene to local wildfires and have varying levels of wildland fire training depending on the outfit.
Often assigned to scout for new fires following lightning events, tracking active fire perimeters, or assisting ground resources with water or fire retardant drops, air resources include either airplanes or helicopters. Airplanes range from single-engine air tankers that deliver small fire retardant loads to large retardant bombers. In remote inaccessible terrain, smokejumpers can be delivered via air to put out a fire. Helicopters are most often used to ferry supplies to crews and to deliver water drops using specially designed buckets. Helitack crews are specially trained to be transported to fires by helicopter and perform fire suppression duties as well as man helicopter stations on larger fire incidents.
Hazard and Risk Reduction
- Public education, outreach, informing the public of how to be firewise
- Connecting professionals (e.g., country fire wardens and state foresters) with landowners who need assistance in obtaining grants and other resources for implementing defensible space around their properties
- The creation of defensible space around homes, outbuildings, campgrounds
- Fuel load reduction projects through thinning, harvesting, and other mechanical means
- Utilizing prescribed fire under the appropriate conditions to remove hazardous fuels
- Implement efforts to maintain or create healthy landscapes and ecosystems focused on native vegetation
- Have comprehensive wildland fire emergency response plans and share with the community
- Identify high-wildland fire hazard zones per county
- Adoption of wildland-urban interface (WUI) building ordinances to reduce fire risk
- Proactive outreach to citizens occupying WUI on preparing for wildfire event
- Include municipal and volunteer fire departments in wildland fire training for quicker and additional fire response
- Utilize smoking and fire bans when fire danger conditions become hazardous
- Educate and inform public when fire danger rises throughout a fire season
Suppression and control
- Firefighter training
- Adequate equipment and resources
- Utilization of the incident command system
- Pre-identified fire response staging areas and camp areas
- Interagency and governmental cooperation and communication
- Government and leader support
- Proper emergency and evacuation plans
- Flexibility to match the best firefighting strategies and tactics to a fire situation
- Implementing proper airspace restrictions to safely execute aerial firefighting response
- Public outreach on closing roads, trails to better assist and safeguard firefighting personnel
- Assess damage to resources e.g. streams, homes, campgrounds, trails
- Habitat and watershed damage assessment and protection
- Erosion control measures (e.g., native seeding, water bars)
- Minimize exposure to invasive species
- Salvage logging operations if applicable
A fire management plan should consider:
- Prevention and hazard/risk reduction efforts
- Firefighting preparedness
- Incident command
- Risk assessment
- Evacuation plans
- Funding strategies
Fire suppression is expensive to taxpayers. In the past 30 years money spent by federal agencies nationwide on firefighting has increased from $2.5 million 1985 to well over $2 billion in 2015. With climate change and expected increase in temperatures and drought periods, fires suppression costs are projected to rise. In Utah, fire suppression costs averaged $33.4 million per year during the 10-year period of 2003–2012. One area of major concern is the wildland-urban interface. As development in this interface continues, firefighting costs will increase. Below is an outline of different costs related to wildfires. Also, true wildfire suppression costs in the Western United States can be found in this report provided by the US Bureau of Land Management.
Two datasets can be used to identify areas of the county where fires are more likely to occur and more likely to have a greater impacts: the Fire Risk data and the Fire Regime Group data. Use this fire regime data dictionary to help you understand the fire regime groups.
The Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal is an online tool being developed by the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands. This tool contains a public viewer and a professional viewer, and both are free to use. This application is valuable for determining wildland fire risk and potential impacts of fires around the state. Another great information resource is the attached linked map and pdf which shows and lists Utah’s communities at risk of wildland fires.
The total cost of fire suppression is only a fraction of the true costs associated with a wildfire event. Wildfires that do occur impose serious costs. Some of the costs associated with wildfire suppression include the direct costs (resources and structures burned), rehabilitation costs (post-fire floods and land restoration), indirect costs (lost sales and county taxes), and additional costs (loss of life and damage to public health). A synthesis of case studies reveal a range of total wildfire costs anywhere from 2 to 30 times greater than the reported suppression costs. Factors involving costs include:
- Public firewise outreach news, radio, television advertisement
- Funds to assist landowners with defensible space projects
- WUI-fuel breaks
- Training for county / municipal fire departments
- Municipal department brush/wildland capable engines
- Wildland firefighting equipment caches
- Firefighting resources and personnel
- Fire crews
- Camp crews (catering, supplies, shower services, fuel services)
- Operation of incident command posts (e.g., schools, county fairgrounds)
- Local first responders (county, municipal fire department)
- Sheriff and police resources for evacuations, traffic control, road closure enforcement
- Disruption to local services
- Loss of revenue due to closed recreation areas on businesses and local tax base
- Loss of timber resources
- Damage to utility lines
- Aid to evacuated citizens
- Land rehabilitation costs
- Watershed rehabilitation costs
- Trails and facility repairs
- Damages to homes, buildings, property, insurance costs
Wildfires can have a major impact on life, property, and natural resources. In most instances, wildland fires serve beneficial ecosystem services and are part of the natural cycle of healthy landscapes. Prescribed fire has been an effective tool used by natural resource managers to offset the ecological unbalance following past fire suppression policies enacted during the early twentieth century. The benefits derived from fire can be overshadowed when life and property are in close proximity to a fire. Below is an outline of some of the broad impacts of fire from a beneficial and disadvantageous standpoint.
- Fuel reduction
- Periodic fire can create conditions leaving areas less prone to large destructive future fires
- Habitat improvement
- Removes sick, diseased, and unhealthy trees
- Removes invasive plants
- Soil nutrient recycling
- Creates forest openings for the next generation of trees or rangeland plants
- Stimulates new growth
- Maintains ecological balance
- Promotes biological diversity
- Potential loss of life
- Potential loss of property
- Smoke and air quality issues
- Affects visibility
- Health issues
- Disrupt local or regional air traffic
- Suppression costs
- Degrade water quality
- Force recreational closing of trails, campsites
- Creates an avenue for invasive species to spread
- Loss of timber lands
Further Impact Considerations
Fire impacts can be viewed beyond an overall positive or negative perspective, but from a geographical area context as well. In northern Utah this can be expressed between fires in wildland urban interface versus fires in rural areas. Each has their own unique considerations as listed below.
Wildland Urban Interface:
- High density of structures both residences and outbuildings
- Higher density of utilities that could be impacted
- More complex evacuations procedures
- Concentrated air quality issues and effects
The Wildland-Urban Interface data can be used to identify areas of the county with more complex fire management issues because of the wildland-urban interface.
- Access and time for first responders to arrive
- Grazing land impacts
- Disruption of sheep, cattle, and other livestock operations
- Loss of valuable grazing lands
|Data Name||Data Explanation||Publication Date||Spatial Accuracy||Contact|
|Fire History of Utah||Shows all past burn locations (points) and burn areas (polygons) for the entire state||Unknown||Unknown||Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands|
|BehavePlus||Wildfire Behavior Modeling Program||2013||Unknown||United States Forest Service Fire Lab|
|Communities at Risk list||Use to determine the risk of a community to wildland fire||2013||Unknown||Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands|
|Utah Wildfire Risk Index||An index with greater risk areas shown in darker red colors||Unknown||Unknown||Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands|
|Wildland Urban Interface Data (WUI)||Basic Wildland Urban Interface development map||2016||Unknown||Headwaters Economic Organization|
|Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal||An online tool with many data layers for risk and impact assessments||2016||Unknown||Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands|
|LANDFIRE Fire Regime Groups, us_130frg|
|Data name; “us_130frg” Use to identify natural fire return intervals for a landscape||2012||Delivered as 30 meter pixels but should not be used as individual pixel or as small groups of pixels||Wildland Fire Science, Earth Resources Observation and Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey LANDFIRE website|
|GeoMAC Wildland Fire Support|
|Map viewer displaying current and historic fires||Live Data||Unknown||USGS Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination|
|Wildland Urban Interface (WUI)||Showing wildland-urban interface areas||Unknown||Unknown||USGS Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center|
- National Interagency Fire Center. 2016. National Report of Wildland Fires and Acres Burned by State. Accessed January 8, 2016.
- U.S. Forest Service. 2016. Wildland Fire Touches Every Part of the Nation. Managing Wildland Fires. Accessed February 6, 2016.
- Utah Department of Natural Resources, Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, & State Lands. 2015. Utah Wildland Fire Policy. Accessed: 2/22/16.
- Utah Department of Natural Resources, Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, & State Lands. 2013. Master Cooperative Wildland Fire Management and Stafford Act Response Agreement.
- National Interagency Fire Center. 2015. Federal Firefighting Costs (Suppression Only). Accessed January 8, 2016.
- University of Utah, Bureau of Economic and Business Research. 2014. An Analysis of a Transfer of Federal Lands to the State of Utah. A report prepared for the Utah Governor’s Public Lands Policy Coordination Office. November.
- Western Forestry Leadership Coalition. 2010. The True Cost of Wildfire in the Western U.S.
- National Interagency Fire Center. 2001. Review and Update of the 1995 Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service.