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New program can help Tooele residents stay safe from wildfires

Posted at 2:34 PM, May 28, 2024

TOOELE, Utah — A new Tooele County program geared to help residents better prepare and protect themselves from the dangers of wildland fires is set to begin as summer approaches.

While wildfires are a year-round threat, the busiest season comes during the the summer months when things get hot and dry, especially so in 2024.

"Wildfire this year is at a risk that we haven't seen in probably about 10 years," warned North Tooele Fire District spokesperson Jon Smith.

The new voluntary program rolled out by the fire district will offer free fire danger assessments to residents in areas that are considered to be high-risk.

"They give us a call, they let us know where their property is, whether it's a house, whether it's a business, whether it's a farm," Smith explained.

Firefighters will go out and let homeowners or business owners know what they should be doing to keep a defensible space around their property, around the structures and give them protection tips.

The wildlife risk assessment program is made possible thanks to a federal Community Wildfire Grant through the U.S. Forest Service. The North Tooele Fire District is the first district in the state to receive utilize the grant, which will last for three years.

Smith saID the program allows for some additional resources to the North Tooele Fire District to protect, what they call, the Wildland Urban Interface.

"We have two wildland firefighters whose main purpose with the district is to basically keep an eye on the neighborhoods, keep an eye on the areas where the urban landscape meets the wildland landscape," said Smith.

One of those seasonal wildland firefighters is Julius Gallegos, who has been with the district since April.

"Being a wildland firefighter is a lot different than what some people might think, a lot of it is, can be very challenging at times," said Gallegos. "You're digging lines, removing the fuel from the ground to prevent the spread."

Much of Gallegos efforts will be focused on outreach, mitigation and prevention when it comes to wildland fires. His hope for the program is simple.

"Just to prevent fires from happening and prevent tragedies from occurring," he said.

The North Tooele Fire District is responsible for covering about 1,700 square miles, an area that has seen notable fire incidents in recent years.

In 2022, the Jacob City Fire burned 4,000 acres and came within less than 10 miles of Tooele City. In 2019, the Green Ravine fire threatened homes in Lake Point.

For more information about the program or to schedule an assessment, residents can call the district at (435) 882-6730 or CLICK HERE to sign up starting June 1.