Tooele County to enforce defensible space code requirements during wildfire season

Local News

TOOELE COUNTY (ABC4 News) – The South Rim Fire may be 100 percent contained as of Thursday morning, but firefighters said people living in the area aren’t in the clear just yet as they urge residents to keep up with their defensible space.

Soon, county officials will issue citations to homeowners whose properties are not up to code.

South Rim Fire came within a football field distance of homes in Tooele County

Tooele County firefighters gained control of the South Rim Fire within 24 hours, which came within a football field distance of residential homes.
Although no structures or properties were damaged, Fire Warden Daniel Walton said residents need to do a better job of maintaining defensible space, stating that his department has responded to 48 wildfires in the area already this year.

“This community of South Rim’s very concerning to me. I see a lot of tall grass, a lot of weeds in-between houses, and we just can’t stress defensible space enough. Watch for your neighbors and make sure you’re communicating with each other. If you see a problem, verbalize it, and talk to each other,” he said.

Walton said the county has hired a code enforcement officer to enforce defensible space requirements, specifically in the South Rim, Lake Point, and Pine Canyon communities. Firefighters said defensible space essentially means a buffer zone between vegetation and your property and is required for structures located within high wildfire risk areas.

“If you don’t have defensible space, the fire can get right up to your house and that’s what’s going to catch your house on fire,” said Unified Fire Authority Public Information Officer Keith Garner. “When we’re doing structure protection during large wildfires, we’ll drive up and make sure there is defensible space to work with to have a safety barrier against the fire. If there’s not, we actually have to move on. It’s not safe for us to be able to get in there and keep that from burning.”

Although the wildfire season is not as intense as it was this time last year, Garner said fire officials expect a late start.

“This wildfire season is going to be worse than most previous years just for the fact that we had a really wet spring, which creates a lot of vegetation, a lot of weeds, a lot of ground cover grows like crazy,” he said. “What that does is it comes in thicker and longer than previous years.”

Defensible space planning (Courtesy: Draper City Fire Department)

Garner said defensible space is divided into three zones. The first zone is a radius of 30 feet from your house and the most critical for fire protection, according to experts. Clear this area of anything flammable such as tall grass, evergreen trees, and scrubs next to the house. Avoid trees that hang over the house or deck as well as leaves, brush, firewood piles, bark, mulch, and other burnables.

The second zone is 60 feet from the structure and requires maintenance of a well-kept lawn and avoidance of evergreens that catch fire easily and burn quickly. Trees and shrubs should be kept in this area. Firewood and other burnables should be stored in this zone. Remove all downed wood fuel such as logs or branches.

The third zone is 90 feet away and requires clearance of any dead vegetation.

For more information on defensible space, click here.

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