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UFA shows many homes are vulnerable to wildfires as danger grows

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – As temperatures rise firefighters are finding a growing wildfire danger in areas of the foothills. Crews say making defensible space now can make the difference on whether a home survives a wildfire.

Some parts of southern and eastern Utah have already seen fires which forced evacuations.

Eric Holmes of Unified Fire Authority showed News4Utah how vulnerable the foothills of the Wasatch Front can be to wildfires. During a tour, he showed us several homes where grass is growing too high and where branches from trees rest on the home.

Resources like Firewise USA guide residents on how they can make their homes more fire resilient. Holmes notes it can make the difference on whether a home survives or not.

“Defensible space for us is a very quick way for us to see if a house is going to be savable,” said Holmes.

Much of the vegetation is still green after a some wet weather this spring. Creating the defensible space now will make it easier to manage throughout the summer.

“Get outside this weekend and work on this kind of stuff because it’s going to help your house when the fire is bearing down on it,” said Holmes.

During our tour we did come across Donna Biliak’s home which Holmes said had good defensible space. Biliak said her focus was reducing the amount of water she used through landscaping. She didn’t realize it also protected her home from wildfire.

“Have all this growth which is beautiful, but a lot of it dies too so we’ve been taking out all the dead brush,” said Biliak.

As someone who used to live in California, Biliak knows how quickly fires can get out of hand. It’s something she still worries about here in Utah.

“We’re already watching the wildfires that are starting, and we’re worried about it because we’re pretty close to the mountains,” said Biliak.

The wet spring did make for more growth throughout the state. It also means once that vegetation dries out it will become more fuel to burn.

Holmes also suggests creating the space now because lawn tools can also spark fires later in the summer if the conditions are dry enough.

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