The governing board of the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments has penned a letter to the Utah offices of the Bureau of Land Management contesting a plan to move the Moab Interagency Fire Center from Ken’s Lake to a location in Sevier County.
The plan, announced in July 2017, would consolidate both the Moab and Vernal fire communication centers into a new facility near Richfield, according to BLM Public Affairs Specialist Lisa Bryant. Additional fire centers in Cedar City and northern Utah would remain open as part of a three-office network across the state.
“The governing board expresses concerns with reducing full-time personnel living in the area and moving the fire center to Richfield,” wrote SEUALG Chairman Bruce A. Adams. “Moving the center to Richfield creates challenges, such as covering nearly a 10-million-acre area of the Ken’s Lake area dispatch center.”
The Ken’s Lake office responds to approximately 400 incidents each year, during a fire season that runs from March to October, according to MIFC data.
“The governing board has concerns about overall safety and communication for the area,” Adams stated. “Challenges exist with communication at the Moab fire center and moving the center to Richfield will only create more challenges. In addition, the governing board strongly believes not having personnel who understand the area may prove challenging as well when responding to area fires.
“The board’s last concern is having a center moved from southeastern Utah and relocated to Richfield. Another center is close, located in Cedar City, which is 114 miles from Richfield. Fighting fires in southeastern Utah should have closer access than in Richfield. Location should be a strong factor in fighting fires.”
“We essentially signed and moved it on down the line because this decision makes it more difficult to fight fires ... because of the distances involved,” said SEUALG member and Grand County Council Member Curtis Wells. “It’s also very significant that we had this meeting in Moab because we haven’t had it here in decades. It’s always been held in Carbon County, so this is significant. I can’t stress how important this is for the community.”
Adams also added that response time should be a critical consideration when it comes to having a fire center in southeastern Utah.
“What is the response time for a fire in Grand County when the center location is in Richfield versus Moab? The board asks for the issues to be considered when making a decision about relocation.”