Protecting our natural resources from wildfires is crucial to ensure we’ll be skiing our slopes for generations to come. Deer Valley’s proactive approach to preventing these wildfires includes controlled or “prescribed” burns of nature’s fuels – dead trees and dry brush – as part of a comprehensive forest health program.
Deer Valley VP of Mountain Operations Steve Graff recently took part in shaping the Park City Wildfire Emergency Preparedness Plan, which was developed with partners from the Park City Municipal Corporation (PCMC) and the Wildfire Fuels Reduction Committee with Summit County, the State, Fire Department and Forest Service. Deer Valley trail crews who were trained on burn pile methods by these entities continue to collaborate with them to maintain healthy forests and help reduce wildfire risk in the community.
With a little help from Steve, here are answers to some common questions related to Deer Valley’s wildfire mitigation efforts.
Q: How long has Deer Valley been addressing the risk of wildfires?
A: Deer Valley has a comprehensive forest health program that we’ve been using since the inception of the resort. We’re recognizing we need to step up those efforts in the fuel reduction program around the resort to reduce wildfire risk and be good stewards of the land we operate on.
Q: How does it work?
A: We’re using fire as a tool to help us in our forest health program. Not only do we drop the dead and dying trees, but now we’re taking it a step further by burning them in the fall when we have favorable weather conditions such as early season snowfall and good air quality.
Q: But isn’t starting a fire the last thing, we want to around the resort?
A: Fire is an important part of the ecosystem, and prescribed burning is the easiest and least expensive method to quickly dispose of large amounts of fuels. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency’s position is that prescribed burns result in overall better air quality by preventing large wildfires.
Q: Who’s involved in these controlled burns?
A: The Park City Fire District, Summit County Fire Warden, and the State’s Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands are all involved to provide technical assistance and guidance to Deer Valley crews.
Q: Should Deer Valley homeowners or guests visiting the resort be worried about their safety during a controlled burn?
A: No. These burns are tightly monitored by crews on site. We obtain permits and wait for favorable weather conditions to ensure the burns are as safe as possible. You may see smoke in or around the Deer Valley area, but there is no need to call 911 to report it during planned burns.
Q: How do the controlled burns actually help?
A: The end result is a healthier, safer forest ecosystem more resistant to wildfire. As an added benefit, it makes for great glade skiing.