Draper wildfire close to home for U students

By Isabella Bravo, Staff Writer

A wildfire that spread through Draper’s Corner Canyon threatened more than 53 homes on Monday night, but U students who live in the area are trying to stay optimistic, even while the nearby wildfire continues uncontained.

“It is scary to think about, because you wake up one day, go off to work or school and then by the time you come home you see this mountain on fire,” said Tatshiana Sanchez, a junior. “Half of the houses have been evacuated and it is just scary to know what will happen next and if it will be OK.”

The fire started on a hillside north of Corner Canyon in Draper City. High winds, low humidity, high temperature, dry brush and grass carried the fire 600 acres west to the homes along the east bench within a few hours.

Kathy Pollock, the Forest Service spokeswoman for the Corner Canyon fire, said the fire was moving west downhill, being quickly pushed by the wind.

“When fire moves, there is a possibility ash could go into someone’s yard or roof. If there is anything at all that could burn, it will,” Pollock said.

The evacuation order issued by the city lasted four hours for just under 60 households. Although the order was lifted at 8 p.m. Monday, 112 structures in the area were still at risk on Tuesday.

“We have about 160 people out there today. 140 are out (on the mountain working on containment) or working with the helicopter,” said Pollock. “Also, there are about 120 involving (United Fire Authority) engines. We still have structure-protection engines as a precaution.”

The UFA and the Forest Service are working under a unified command to stop the fire. Their key objective now is to protect the nearby homes and buildings.

The UFA specifically watches the nearby neighborhoods. “Our role has been to protect the homes. They actually saved a few homes in Big Hollow throughout the night, while looking for spot fires,” said Captain Jay Fearnley, UFA’s spokesman, about Monday night’s efforts.

The containment crews and fire personnel are not the only ones on the mountainside.

“We have not been evacuated, however, we can see flames from my bedroom window,” said Lacey Jorgensen, a freshman in political science. “Whenever there’s a gust of wind, we can see it flare up.”

While the fire crews work to contain the fire, U students and their families are taking precautions.

“The fire was only about two miles from my house,” said Mayra Silva, a freshman in business. “I was not evacuated, but I was informed to stay indoors so I wouldn’t breathe all that smoke. I decided to water the lawn just as a precaution. I actually went up the mountain to get closer to where the fire was and it was pretty impressive. It was hard to breathe and the flames were right above me.”

“The only real way that this fire has affected me is that it has made me think about what I would do if South Mountain (the ridge south of Corner Canyon) caught on fire,” said Jonathan Bowen, a junior in finance. “It’s important for us to have an evacuation plan because if a fire ever starts, the whole thing would burn up in an instant, putting a lot of people and their homes in jeopardy in a very short time.”

Although the city lifted the evacuation order, Pollock stresses the importance of preparedness. “They need to be prepared. They need to know what they are going to take.”

Bowen believes the city could do more in the future to prevent these
wildfires endangering homes. “In light of this incident, I hope that Draper City will take more notice of the amount of dead and dry bushes, grass or weeds and will require them to be cut down and removed from residential areas in order to prevent more incidents like what we saw on Monday.”

The environmental conditions help spread the fire, but “firestarts” sometimes have preventable origins.

“The public has been exceptionally good over the past few years about putting out campfires, not using fireworks and doing everything that they are supposed to do,” said Pollock. “Whenever you have wildland that bumps up against what we call the wildland-human interface, it can increase the firestarts.”

Until the fire is contained, the Forest Service asks that individuals in the area avoid the canyon when possible for their own safety as well as that of the fire fighters.

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