Draper firefighters help western states battle blazesOct 04, 2021 11:46AM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton
L-R Scott Wilson, a member of another agency, and Ryan Russon work to make sure no embers exist in this fallen tree. (Photo courtesy Draper City)
By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]
The Draper Fire Department has spent much of their summer helping “neighbors” in need. They’ve sent two crews to California, one to Oregon, and two to fires in other parts of Utah.
In the firefighting business, a full deployment lasts two weeks with travel time in addition to that, so crews are often gone 16 to 18 days. “There’s a time limit on how long we can keep our personnel out there before they need rest, that’s 14 days. We’ve done four of those full deployments this year,” Draper Fire Chief Clint Smith said.
Draper’s first full deployment was to Moab June 10. According to Smith, the crew helped fight the Pack Creek Fire and new starts in the area, working on three different fires in that two-week period.
Out-of-state deployments happen through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). The next three full-deployments happened through EMAC. The first was July 18 to central Oregon. After touring recent fire events and learning about fuel models in the area, the team was assigned to the Bootleg Fire burning toward the town of Paisley. “Oregon at that time was experiencing extreme drought on the heels of devastating fires in that area last year,” Smith said. That crew returned home Aug. 2.
Next came two back-to-back deployments to California to assist in the Dixie Fire. The first crew left Aug. 9 and returned Aug. 25. A new crew was deployed Aug. 26 and returned home Sept. 11. “The Dixie Fire is the largest in California’s history. As of Sept. 17, it has burned nearly one million acres,” Smith said.
Draper’s crews did a variety of jobs while in California. They worked on direct fire attack and “back-burning,” lighting vegetation in a controlled circumstance to create a burn line in an effort to contain a fire to a certain area. They also did line construction which involves digging a line down to bare dirt to create a fire break between active fire and unburned areas. They prepared structures in the area by thinning vegetation around them and wrapping some in a tinfoil type material to radiate fire away. And they did “mop up,” going into an area that has already burned to make sure hot spots are cooled so a wind doesn’t kick up embers.
In addition to four full deployments, Draper sent an assisting deployment to the Parley’s fire that began Aug. 14 and was brought under control Aug. 18 with the help of rain.
For fire chiefs like Smith, it’s a matter of first making sure their local department is staffed as needed while also accommodating outside requests for help. Draper kept crews home for the Fourth of July and Draper Days because of the drought and the anticipated fireworks.
Draper’s crews deploy in a Type Three engine that the department purchased three years ago. That engine’s capabilities are specific to wildland fires. It was purchased to help enhance local response and serve on deployments.
Covid outbreaks were reported among crews fighting California’s Caldor Fire, but Draper’s deployed crews have remained healthy thus far. According to Smith, the majority are fully vaccinated and are taking precautions when they’re in close contact with others.
“It’s fair to note that, in the circumstances California has been in, Utah was the only state that did send resources through EMAC to assist. California was very grateful to everyone, but especially to Utah. To say that California was in need would be an understatement,” Smith said.
Having lost one of Draper’s own, Matt Burchett, on a deployment to California,
Smith tries to be at every send-off for his crews. “We want to be good neighbors, but I also recognize there’s always a danger when we send our folks out on these deployments. I try to be there to let them know how appreciative I am, that I’ll be concerned about them when they’re gone, and to keep in touch so we can best support them.”
Smith anticipates more deployments for his crew this season because it’s so dry in California, Oregon and Nevada. He said that the little bit of rain Utah has gotten along with temperatures that are beginning to cool has helped in our state, but that his crews have deployed as late as December in past years.
“We want to be good neighbors and assist our neighbors when they need it. By building those relationships and being willing to deploy, we’re confident that those other states will reciprocate when we need it,” Smith said.
Draper’s deployed crews included Connor Carpenter, Ryan Christensen, Wade Cooper, Jesse Grindstaff, Sean Hines, Nick Honsvick, Cody Jolley, Brian Plummer, Anders Pritchard, Kerwin Qwynten, Ryan Russon, Rod Schultz, James Schwartz and Scott Wilson.