Castle Valley Comments – July 4, 2019

The Castle Valley Fire Department recently completed a Community Wildfire Preparedness Plan for the Wildland/Urban Interface where we live. This plan was last updated over ten years ago, but should be updated every five years as circumstances change. This plan is normally completed by the State Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, but for a while there has not been an employee in the position that does the work. Several months of work by the fire department and more specifically Commissioner Leta Vaughn was required to complete the document before a public hearing and a special fire commissioner meeting last month. The Castle Valley fire commissioners approved the plan during that special meeting June 26 at Fire Station 2.

Even though the fire department completed the plan, there is a list of names and affiliations of all cooperators who agree and buy into the plan including resources from many local, state and federal organizations. The introduction of the wildfire preparedness plan states: Over 600 of Utah’s communities have been classified as “at risk” of wildfire. The safety of the citizens of any community and the protection of private property and community infrastructure is a shared responsibility between the citizens; the owner, developer or association; and the local, county, state and federal governments. The primary responsibility, however, remains with the local government and the citizen/owner.”

The purpose of the wildfire preparedness planning is to (1) motivate and empower local government, communities and property owners to organize, plan and take action on issues impacting the safety and resilience of values at risk. (2) Enhance levels of fire resilience and protection to the communities and infrastructure. (3) Identify the threat of wildland fires in the area. (4) Identify strategies to reduce the risk to structures, infrastructure and commerce in the community during a wildfire. (5) Identify wildfire hazards, education and mitigation actions needed to reduce risk and (6) transfer practical knowledge through collaboration between stakeholders toward common goals and objectives.

The outcome of wildfire preparedness planning is to facilitate organizations of sustainable efforts to guide planning and implementation of actions. They include coordination and collaboration, public awareness and education, firefighting training, fuel modification, improved fire response capabilities, fire prevention and development of long-term strategies.

The plan goes on to state: “The focus, goals and objectives of the planning process have included community wildfire education and resources, identification and marshaling of community resources, assistance to property owners in creating defensible space, inter-agency cooperation to create a community protection zone and shaded fuel break, cooperative efforts to implement fuels reduction projects that are also sensitive to ecological considerations and watershed protection, restoration of burned and impacted areas, community emergency planning and support for development of the Castle Valley Volunteer Fire Department.”

The 44-page document identifies the population, roads and driveways, structures, utilities and locations of water sources. It also includes a fire history of the past 10 years and identifies the fuel hazard and much more information to help the fire department to identify hazards and methods to mitigate potential problems.

Forty years ago this week this column featured a picture of the Grand County Road Department installing the large 10-foot by 65-foot culvert in Castle Creek where Castle Valley Drive passes over. The culvert was delivered in pieces and had to be assembled on site by volunteers of the community. Before the installation, high winds had rolled the structure into a wash about 75 feet from the original installation site and it had to be moved back into position before work proceeded. The road crew had to bring in fill dirt to cover the culvert.

Before the new culvert installation, Castle Valley Drive meandered to the west of the present location and went through the creek and over a small culvert, which would wash out several times a year due to flooding in the creek. A little while later dirt was added to the top of the culvert by taking material from each side of the creek to make less of a grade over the creek. Several years later a flood in the creek caused the water to come within inches of going over the road even with the added material.