Fire danger persists in Park City as holiday weekend nears

The Park City area enjoyed the 4th of July and Pioneer Day without major human-sparked fires.

As Labor Day approaches, though, there remains a heightened concern as hot, dry weather persists. Emergency officials say there is a danger of human-caused blazes during the upcoming three-day weekend, a time when the risk is usually significantly reduced from the two fireworks-heavy holidays in July. Labor Day, celebrated as Miners Day in Park City, draws large crowds to the city itself as well as numerous campers, hikers and other recreation lovers to mountains, lakes and reservoirs in outlying Summit County.

The fire season in Park City and surrounding Summit County generally runs through October or once there has been significant rainfall or snowfall.

“We’re still concerned. I haven’t changed my concern since June,” said Hugh Daniels, who manages City Hall’s emergency programs. “It’s predicted to stay hot and dry.”

Park City leaders earlier prohibited open flames and fireworks out of concern of a blaze. The ban remains in effect until it is rescinded by an action of the municipal government’s chief building and fire code official, Dave Thacker. That sort of action is not yet planned, Daniels said.

“I’m just always concerned we have people in having a good time and don’t necessarily think much about fire, and the consequences of fire, in the mountains,” Daniels said, noting the popularity of barbecues during the Labor Day weekend.

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Paul Hewitt, the Park City Fire District chief, said there is a “moderate fire risk right now” in Park City and the Snyderville Basin. The risk, though, could reach a high danger by Labor Day based on the weather pattern, Hewitt said.

“We’re ending up with a fairly unusual dry spell, warm spell” late in the summer, Hewitt said.

The National Weather Service forecasts the high temperatures in the Park City area to remain in the 80s through the three-day weekend. There is also a chance of thunderstorms, the National Weather Service says.

Summit County officials on Aug. 23 lifted restrictions that were meant to guard against fires. The restrictions dealt with legal fireworks, open burning and certain construction activities like cutting materials and welding outdoors. Bryce Boyer, the Summit County fire warden, though, said a restriction on target shooting in the vicinity of the interchange of Interstate 80 and Interstate 84 in North Summit remains intact.

Leaders in Park City and Summit County have long worried about the prospects of a major wildfire regardless of whether it is caused by humans or nature. A wildfire could devastate neighborhoods as diverse as tightly packed Old Town and Summit Park, where houses are built in heavily wooded terrain.

A small brush fire broke out in Park Meadows earlier in August. It charred a sliver of land as it moved up a hill. The Fire District said the fire started at a home under construction when sparks caused by a worker cutting metal or concrete with a saw ignited the nearby grass. It burned upward of one-half of an acre and took firefighters approximately 10 minutes to extinguish.

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