Wildfire near Woodland

By Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Kamas resident Sherri Smoot had a front-row seat for a wildfire Saturday near Woodland.
"I'm very nervous," she said, while watching the U.S. Forest Service light a hillside on fire, a few hundred yards from her Pine Valley cabin. "There's been so many of them go bad."

According to Tim Garcia, district ranger for the Wasatch-Cache National Forest Kamas Ranger District, last weekend's Cedar Hollow II fire was one of several prescribed burns currently planned in Utah.

Saturday and Sunday about 600 acres of the forest was burned about eight miles east of Francis.

"This hillside isn't as ecologically sick as they think," said Kamas resident Sherm Smoot, a nearby property owner, who wishes torch-armed firefighters would stay away.

A prescribed burn on a mountainside near Woodland Saturday burned roughly 600 acres of land. Photo by Scott Sine/Park Record

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The Smoots recalled the Cascade II Fire, which the U.S. Forest Service started near Midway Sept. 23, 2003. Unexpected winds quickly spread the fire over thousands of acres. The fire jumped breaks and blackened skies along the Wasatch Back before firefighters contained it days later.

"We can't even start a fire unless it totally meets our pre-set prescriptions," said Larry Lucas, a U.S. Forest Service public information officer.

Firefighters kept last weekend's blaze under control and no one was injured as men in helicopters, flying just west of the Provo River in the Uinta Mountains, doused oak trees and junipers with flames. Burning vegetation along the mountainside reduces the amount of firewood and protects homes in the area in case of a real wildfire, Garcia said.

"We're not worried about the fire getting away from us," Lucas said Saturday.

The fire also affects the ages of trees, which improves habitat for wildlife, he adds. The Cedar Hollow II fire began Saturday afternoon and burned out Sunday night.

"It's better for wildlife because different ages of wildlife eat different stuff," Lucas said.

Along with the forest service, South Summit Fire District, the Utah Department of Forestry, Fire and State Lands and Summit County Public Works participated in the operation. About 20 firefighters worked to control the blaze from the ground while engine crews stood by.

With houses so close and a large number of dying trees in the area, Cedar Hollow is prime ground for a prescribed burn, said Riva Duncan, a U.S. Forest Service fuels specialist.

"I didn't want it to happen," said Pine Valley resident Shauna Bradley.

The Cedar Hollow burn, however, went off without a hitch, Garcia said, adding that firefighters began burning the area in the late 1990s.

"Everything is dependent on how a fire starts and how a fire moves," he said. "[Prescribed fires] reduce hazardous fuels building in national forests, next to private property and homes."

Cedar Hollow is popular for camping and all-terrain vehicle use, Garcia said, adding that wildfires often flare up in the area.

The goal of the forest service was to spend between $200 and $300 per acre burned in the fire, he said.

"Could you go get us some marshmallows," Sherri Smoot joked Saturday.