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Herald editorial: Utahns who ignore laws, cause fires with reckless behavior should be prosecuted to fullest extent

By Daily Herald Editorial Board - | Aug 4, 2019

Utah County has been fortunate so far this summer; we’ve yet to see a repeat of the 2018 Pole Creek and Bald Mountain fires. The burn scars of those areas are regrowing and massive flooding has held off minus the incident last weekend near Thistle.

However, the small Round Peak Fire in Springville in early July that burned 235 acres was caused by a dispersed campfire and threatened the community.

The Alaska Fire is currently being investigated and is also believed to be caused by humans. At nearly 500 acres and 50% contained this weekend, crews and teams continue to work and monitor the fire for public safety.

For the multiple Utahns who have disrupted firefighting operations this summer: we hope you are apprehended and charged accordingly, as it is illegal.

Drones have shut down multiple firefighting operations despite cities, fire agencies, media and others warning that drones cannot operate in the area of an active fire and endanger ground and air operations.

And yet, it keeps happening.

Which points to either stupidity or intentional recklessness.

Fire prevention would seem to be common sense.

Utah has for all modern times been a desert, and summer and fall pose dangerous fire seasons if residents do not practice basic fire prevention tactics.

This includes, not creating campfires on the sides of mountains surrounded by brush, thoroughly putting out campfires in designated areas before leaving, disposing of brush and trees in alternative means instead of massive bonfires in mountain areas, following firework restrictions.

Despite these basic fire prevention rules, and the circulation of them by many fire and police departments, cities and public safety entities, more than 70% of fires in Utah thus far this year have been started by humans.

Some believe this isn’t “a big deal” as long as no one gets hurt. We disagree. First and foremost, no one can guarantee their reckless actions in starting a wildfire will not end up endangering the lives of personnel fighting the fires or residents and homes near them.

Secondly, fighting these fires adjacent to communities requires a lot of resources and consequently taxpayer money, which does not end merely after containment. These are not small bills.

Thirdly, if control becomes difficult like in the case of the 71,000-acre Brian Head Fire in June 2017, it can disrupt residents’ lives whether it’s displacing them from their homes or endangering their income sources. The man who started the fire by burning 12-foot wide burn piles without burn permits may not have intentionally set the Brian Head Fire, but his reckless actions definitely resulted in one of Utah’s largest wildfires and cost $40 million to fight. Robert Lyman appeared in court in Provo this week where it was ruled he would stand trial on several misdemeanor charges.

This case should be an example to all residents to think twice about potential careless actions in the summer and fall on the mountain benches or dry valleys.

Should you start a wildfire, or ignore posted laws of restrictions, then it would be in the community’s best interest to hold you responsible and let the consequences follow.


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