Lt. Governor said he warned against controlled burn gone awry

Lt. Governor said he warned against controlled burn gone awry. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) - Lt. Governor Spencer Cox said he raised a red flag about the controlled burn in Emery County before it got out of control and torched over 6,000 acres.

That fire has been dubbed the Trail Mountain Fire and is only 10 percent contained.

He spotted the fire last week as he drove home to Fairview and called state fire workers to ask about it.

State fire workers told Cox the fire was a prescribed burn led by the U.S. Forest Service.

Cox said he told them it was a "really bad idea."

"The forest service said no, its fine, we've got it contained," he said.

Soon after, the fire was out of control after unexpected wind gusts.

The Lt. Governor tweeted about his frustration over having prescribed burns during when temperatures are high and humidity is low.

"We have to be smart about it, when we do it, don't do it," he said.

Cox thinks prescribed burns are an important part of forest management but doesn't think June is not a good time for such burns and plans to tell that to the Secretary of Agriculture when he and Governor Herbert visit Washington DC next week.

He'd like Utah to have a stronger voice in decisions about controlled burns on Forest Service property.

Dave Whittekiend, Forest Supervisor for the Uintah-Wasatch-Cache National Forest said no doubt, there will be conversations at the Forest Service about what happened with the fire.

While Whittekiend was not the supervisor on the burn, he said before every burn, supervisors have a prescription, that outlines the best conditions for the burn including humidity, temperature and fuel moisture.

He said such burns happen in fall, spring and June because July and August usually have Forest staff fighting wildfires.

He said it's very rare for a burn to go out of control and prescribed burns are still an important tool to manage forest lands.

They help regenerate trees after fires and keep wildfires from happening by destroying dry fuel.

While it may seem to people in the valleys that conditions are too dry for a burn, in altitude, he said there is still snow present and temperatures are lower.

"I would hate for us to blanket walk away from being able to do prescribed fires," he said.

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