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Opinion- Can We Really Leave No Trace?

I once took four pretty little rocks home from Goblin Valley State Park. The girl I was with, who took about seven rocks, told me she believed in No Trace Principles, but that, “we might as well enjoy nature before it’s gone because it’s disappearing anyway.”

Another time, I didn’t stop my friend as he lit a fire in the sand in Coyote Gulch. He didn’t burn anything large. He didn’t move any stones. He buried the ashes. His only justification being that he “really, really wanted to have a fire.”

Not long ago, my friends and I went to Escalante to do a single rappel in Egypt 3 Canyon in Escalante. We dragged along a rope because the canyon beta report said that there would be no need for webbing or any other equipment. Apparently, the anchor for the rappel was a natural arch that could be rappelled off double-stranded using only a rope. The beta assured us that we wouldn’t have to pull our rope and risk scarring the sandstone arch, but that we could double back on our way out of the canyon to retrieve our rope on the hike to the car. Once in the canyon, we reached a drop we thought might be the rappel, but we were skeptical. Were we supposed to set up the rope and rappel, at risk of abandoning our rope before reaching the actual rappel and being trapped in the canyon? Or were we supposed to use our rope to rappel the drop and pull it through the natural arch just in case we’d need it further down canyon—even though this would mean scarring the sandstone and leaving a blatant trace on the terrain? Ultimately, we elected to backtrack through the canyon, climbing out early and skipping the rappel altogether.

So how strictly exactly should we adhere to Leave No Trace Principles? Is it okay to collect crystals in national parks just like it’s okay to collect sea shells on the beach? Is starting a fire in Coyote Gulch really worse than starting one in the Uintas? When do you pull your rope and scar rock in order to conveniently navigate a canyon? And when do you pull your rope and scar rock in order to survive a canyon?

According to the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, it’s impossible to leave absolutely no trace of your visit to the outdoors. And while LNT principles are intended to minimize human impacts on natural environments as much as possible, there is no way to leave zero trace. Just because my friend started a fire in Coyote Gulch doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about the outdoors—it doesn’t mean he should never be allowed to camp again or that he should start fires wherever he pleases. The whole reason for Leave No Trace is to preserve and protect both natural resources and the quality of recreational experiences. It is meant not only to keep the natural world as pristine as possible for its own sake, but also for its devoted recreators. It’s the golden rule of the outdoors—treat the wild spaces you grace as clean for others as you would want them to remain for yourself. So always carry your Wag Bags, never Bust the Crust, and if it comes down to it When In Doubt, Hike Back Out. But also, obsessive fear of leaving a trace is better than never leaving to explore at all.

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Mia Gallardo

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The Unlikely Trend of Trucker Hats

Trucker hats and their head-topping ilk are a staple outdoor style trend, one represented in force across the country. Trucker hats are the instant outdoor look creator — you can wear something inside to show people you do cool things outside while simultaneously looking like a classic, hard-working American. However, there’s a conflict though between being a hip, outdoorsy college student and wearing a hat that was made popular by blue-collar workers.

Of course the wacky outdoor niche would pick up on an old trucker style made popular in the late ’70s and ’80s. Originally adopted by flyover-country brands like John Deere, Bud Light, and Chevy — all of which handed out free logo-emblazoned caps at truck stops — this became an iconic look for the average Joe. Then, as a brief stint of research in style history tells me, the trucker hat made a comeback in 2000s mainstream style. In the 2010s or so, the outdoor industry and community finally picked it up in full effect. Patagonia trucker hats seem to be the go-to, with other outdoor brands following behind. They’re worn hiking, biking, skiing, climbing; hats go anywhere from underneath helmets to buried in thick parkas. The dirtbag culture has fully embraced the trend.

At least part of the trucker hat’s popularity can be explained from its functionality, the breathable mesh back provides adequate airflow for intense activities. But, it’s still a little bizarre. Just look at the accompanying dirty flannels, deteriorating jeans, and worn-out Chacos. The trucker hat is the key item to top off the bum look and show everyone else you like to climb rocks. Construction workers and lumberjacks wear flannels, truckers and farmers wear trucker hats. It’s American. Being outside is American, and the ’70s just seems like a classic American decade, right? After my thorough investigation, this is the only reasonable conclusion I can draw as to why trucker hats are so in right now with the out-of-doors crowd. In the end, it’s a simple unspoken rule that the addition of a trucker hat automatically steps up one’s outdoor style game tenfold.

c.hammock@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Chris Hammock

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Editor’s Note

When you hear of someone bike touring Argentina, kayaking the Pacific Northwest, or climbing in the Caucuses, the initial response is an odd blend of jealousy and awe. You wonder how on Earth someone can blow off that much time and money to catch a dream we’ve all been chasing.

Everyone is finishing another school year, and some of us are finishing school for good (at least for now). Keeping to the typical projection of life, a job or internship will follow and we will evolve into weekend warriors, time permitting. We’ll read books like “Wild,” watch movies like “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and say, “One day…”

I’ll be joining my cap and gown-clad peers in the conga line toward a handshake, smile, and a diploma next month, but I won’t be following them toward a job right off the bat. Instead, I am walking straight on- from Southern California to Canada in fact- on the Pacific Crest Trail. A whole 2,000 (ish) miles.

I’m not telling this to you to impress you or make you feel inferior, but to remind you that yes, it is possible to be that person. It doesn’t have to be a three-month excursion to an exotic country. Utah is beautiful enough that you could adventure here the rest of your life and never see it all. Whatever that outdoor dream of your’s is, go get ’em. Your body, mind and spirit will be forever grateful. “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”

c.webber@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Carolyn Webber

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Opinion: The Price I Paid for “Trespassing” on Public Lands

Arguably, there is no recreational activity more simple than walking outside. There’s no money, skills, or gear required besides a pair of shoes and maybe a walking stick and water bottle. That’s why I’m a tad bit flustered when my simple human activity of walking is cut short by bureaucracy.

Maybe it’s just me, but lately I’ve had some bad luck on my hiking excursions. I have a history of bagging little knolls and obscure neighborhood mountains that I can see from the valley, usually looking at the mountain from the ground, picking a route, and simply walking out from my front door. If there’s a fence in the way, I’ll hop it. If there’s a “No Trespassing” sign, I’ll falter for a second to make sure nobody’s around before hopping that one too. Only once have I been kicked off of private property for trespassing: a caretaker on a ranch in Montana intercepted me on my way down from the top of a little butte to escort me back to the fence. Fortunately, I was able to enjoy the view at the top before being run off.

This is a crazy concept to me in the U.S. Everyone wants their own little piece of land and threatening to protect it with guns is the norm. This isn’t the case in many other countries. Sweden has a general public idea called “allemansrätten” or “every man’s right” to roam on both public and private lands for recreational walking as long as it’s not destructive and is fairly respectful to privacy. This is an idea I can get behind. Not all of us can afford to buy up our own piece of land, and as there become more and more of us we need to be willing to reasonably share. Because of increasing private property, long public trails like the North Country Trail, for example, are becoming increasingly harder to build as land is constantly subdivided, limiting accessibility to wild places to previously established trails. The days of freely wandering the west are not the same anymore.

Here’s where I’m really irked, though: I was fined $280 for walking in a National Park, on public land. This reignited an ongoing thought of mine: U.S. National Parks, like protective private property, are not a reasonable way to share. In general, National Parks are based around tourists driving their cars through and pumping revenue into the area through pass purchases, gift shop sales, ritzy lodge resorts, boat tours, and expensive campgrounds. In National Parks, everything’s a competition from campsite reservations to permit lotteries to lines to read a sign at the visitor centers. There’s no parking at trailheads. You can’t mountain bike, paraglide, or fly drones. Oh yeah, and don’t forget you need a permit to walk.

I know it’s standard protocol to acquire a permit for backcountry camping in national parks. So, for our visit to Capitol Reef National Park, we planned to get our free permit from a visitor center in Glen Canyon Recreation Area.  Going to this visitor center avoided a five-hour detour to the out-of-the-way Capitol Reef Visitor Center. But, after 12 hours of driving,  we arrived at the beautiful (and brand new) expensive Bullfrog Visitor Center, only to be greeted by a locked door. After stressing about getting all of our backpacking gear, food, maps, and car logistics figured out, we failed to double check if a national park visitor center we were recommended to visit would actually be open midday on a busy spring weekend. There were no hours listed on the door, and after a call to the local dispatch and Capitol Reef, nobody could say when it would open next. The voicemail for the Bullfrog Visitor Center informatively stated it will open “as personnel become available.” For some odd reason the government can’t afford to pay someone to staff this brand-new million-dollar-plus visitor center to permit me to go on my walk. On top of that, the only ranger in the area that could possibly issue us a permit was more than three hours away on a boat on Lake Powell.

But wait, the bureaucratic mess gets worse. I asked the dispatch operator if Bullfrog had been open or a ranger available, we could have even obtained a permit from Glen Canyon in the first place. The definitive answer, after five minutes of cogs turning asking around in the government office system, was no. Contrary to what was stated online, told to us by Capitol Reef staff, and displayed at the trailhead, under no circumstance could we obtain a backcountry permit for Capitol Reef in Glen Canyon, a glaring miscommunication between the parks. So, I’m angry, because, after all of this effort on my side to follow the rules, I still received a $280 fine from the National Park Service for a “failure to obtain a backcountry permit.” The issuing NPS ranger only knew we were there because of our courtesy call as good people to let Capitol Reef know when and where we were going—more or less the entire purpose of a permit. Keep in mind, this was for hiking from of a trailhead with no other cars for three days, only seeing one other group of three the entire time.

There has to be a better way to all get along and be able to just go for a walk. The National Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have it right. You can camp and hike just about anywhere in their jurisdiction and I think that’s how it should be on our wild lands. As long as we all maintain a mutual respect for each other and leave no trace during our excursions, let’s just keep it simple when we want to take a walk.

c.hammock@wasatchmag.com

Photos by Chris Hammock

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Wet Your Whistle: Water Purifier Review

In a state like Utah, where most of the best outdoor opportunities are covered in sand and baked in hot sun, water is the most essential resource. No trip will be fun or successful without a few liters of this life-preserving liquid. Humans can’t drink just any water we come across like camel, but we can employ technology to make it safer for consumption. Here are a few of the most common ways to purify water.

LIFESTRAW

This neat little blue straw is by far the trendiest of water purification devices, and for good reason. It is incredibly simple, compact (just nine inches long and weighs two ounces), and allows you to drink from just about any water source. There’s no pre-filtering or skimming out silt. It’s just dunk and drink. However, the straw requires you to be at a water source or carry one with you. Pairing the Lifestraw with a Nalgene is not a bad way to combat this, but drinking out of a bottle with an oversized straw is more than just a slight inconvenience. Having to stop every few minutes, unscrew your bottle, put the straw in, then blow the excess water back out of the straw can quickly become tedious. Even worse, it can’t be used with water bladders. At $20 though, there is no reason not to pick one up. Lifestraw’s small size and versatility make it the optimal backup water purifier to keep in your pack at all times.

 

KATADYN HIKER

This is often the go-to filter for big group trips. It has the ability to purify large amounts of water reasonably quickly (only a few minutes per Nalgene), and does not require any wait time. You could drink the water right from the out-hose if you wanted. The downsides are that it requires some physical effort to pump multiple liters of water, and the filters are easily clogged. If this happens and there isn’t a replacement available, the pump might still work, but it will be painfully, infuriatingly slow. Be sure to check and double check the condition of the filter before leaving. Pumping in shallow, sandy areas or in very murky water is almost sure to stuff up the filter. While the most expensive filter on the list, averaging about $70, the Katadyn is still well worth it.

 

STERIPEN

Of all the water purifiers out there, this one is perhaps the least suited to backpacking. The UV light that the SteriPEN uses to kill all the harmful bacteria can only work in perfectly clear water. If there are objects floating around or silt obstructing the UV rays, the bacteria have a much higher chance at survival and you have a much higher chance of diarrhea. This filter is best for travel or a home preparedness kit. At around $60, it’s steeper than a Lifestraw anyways.

 

 

 

IODINE/CHLORINE TABLETS

Depending on the water source, this can be the most efficient (and painless) method of cleaning your water. All that is required is filling the bottles with water clear enough to not gross you out and adding the correct amount of chemicals. Instructions are on the package, but typically the ratio is one chlorine tablet or a few drops of iodine per liter of water. Allow the chemical the correct amount of time to work its magic (length also shown on product package) and remember to bleed the threads before drinking. This means turning the water bottle upside down and unscrewing the lid a little so some can leak out through the threads of the top. If not, you could end up getting Giardia from the little bits of unpurified water sitting trapped in the cap. Katadyn makes Micropur chlorine tablets that run for $20 for a pack of 20 tablets. Polar Pure makes an iodine cleaner for $20 that is able to purify 2,000 quarts.

 

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

Feature Photo courtesy of Aquamira

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Hiking When the Snow Melts

As any grizzled Utah native will tell you, “if you don’t like the weather, wait five-minutes.” This hackneyed anecdote never rings truer than during spring. While each surprise snowstorm means an extended season for local powder-junkies, those of us who prefer deep-canyon excursions are left waiting. Fortunately, the grand ol’ Wasatch is much more accessible than you may think. The handy rule-of-thumb is stick to the foothills.

Stand on an elevated surface and look towards the mountains. You’ll notice that the range remains bare, dry, and accessible from the radio towers and smaller peaks from behind the University of Utah (like Mount Wire) to Mount Olympus and continuing along the Wildcat Ridge. This stretch may seem limited, but there’s plenty to explore without getting your feet wet.

The first more challenging peak-bagging excursion available is almost always Mount Olympus, which can be done without specialty equipment as early as late April. See here for a guide up this grueling summit.

The most important thing to recognize when spring hiking in this bipolar range is that conditions are always in flux. While weather reports will give you a general idea of conditions-to-come, they are ultimately tentative until you wake up that day and look at the sky.

Also, if you do intend to take your hike higher than the Bonneville Shoreline (which carves along the lower reaches of nearly the entire range), prepare to get muddy. Residual snow at higher elevation melts in spring, and wary hikers often find themselves sludging through the mud. Wear sturdy boots and bring an extra layer, regardless of how easy the hike may seem.

When warmer temperatures arrive, Millcreek, Neff’s, and the Cottonwood Canyons will gradually open themselves up to adventurers—though don’t be surprised if you run into mud and snow in the shadows. Late-spring is a wonderful time to catch a view of the violent and impetuous spring run-off in the rivers that carve the canyons and the blooming wildflowers beside them.

d.rees@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Dalton Rees

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Spring Skiing at Brian Head

It’s that time of year. The snow in the Cottonwoods is slushier, skis are skinnier and costumes are more flamboyant. Spring skiing is in full swing. You don’t want to miss a prime spring skiing weekend, but you really want to camp and see some red rock to get you through the last few weeks of school. Pack up your skis and camping gear and take an overnight trip to Brian Head.

Brian Head Ski and Snowboard Resort is a short three and a half hour drive from campus. Of Utah’s many ski resorts, it has the highest base elevation (9,600 ft.), serving eight chair lifts and 71 runs over two mountains, along with two terrain parks. So why would you trek out to semi-southern Utah to ski slush when there’s plenty right here in the Wasatch? A Brian Head spring staycation is epic for three reasons: cost, camping, and craziness.

Cost:

An adult weekday full-day pass is only $38, a weekend full-day pass $59 — compare that with a $79 day at Brighton, a $83 day at Solitude, and $106 at Snowbird. So whether you drive out Thursday night to ski Friday for $38 or make the trip on a weekend day, rest assured you’re getting all the wild slush of spring skiing at a fraction of the Cottonwoods’ cost.

Camping:

Since Brian Head is more southerly than most ski resorts, surrounding areas are much warmer, much more melted, and therefore conducive to camping. Camp for free overnight before your epic day of skiing without worrying about the logistics and gear required for winter camping in the snow.

Brian Head Resort is only about a 20 minute drive from free camping in Dixie National Forest. There are plenty of trees, and the area is readily accessible to vehicles, so feel free to sleep in a truck bed, sling a hammock between trees, or pitch a tent. Whatever your choice, snuggle in among that scrubby southern Utah shrubbery and red sandy soil you’ve been missing all winter long. Freecampsites.net is a superb resource to consult while selecting your site.

Craziness:

Brian Head closes for the season Sunday, April 16, meaning next weekend will be prime end of season madness. Expect all the skimpy clothing, parking lot partying, and sunny silliness that you love about spring skiing. Additionally, Saturday, April 15 will be the Brian Head Annual Bikini Slalom & Pond Skimming Contest — definitely arrive prepared for epic enjoyment, whether you participate in or watch the festivities.

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Brian Head Ski Resort

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Conquering Peaks: Becoming a Mountaineer

Ever heard of Sir Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay, Reinhold Messner, or Jon Krakauer? These are the men who helped define mountaineering, the sport of climbing tall mountains. Each stepped foot on the tallest mountain in the world — Everest. They were united by the desire to summit mountain peaks, a feeling that drives all mountaineers.

To launch my own mountaineering career, I decided to start locally.  With a climbing colleague, we set out to tackle Broad’s Fork Twin Peaks last June. Although the elevation of 11,329 feet is nowhere near that of the breathtaking elevation of Everest (29,035 feet), we were faced with challenges.

After reading previous mountaineers’ advice on which route to take on Mountain Project, we decided to start at the S-curve in Big Cottonwood Canyon. We discussed the equipment needed to go on this expedition — sunglasses, sunscreen, hiking poles, crampons, a mountaineering axe, a probe, a beacon, and a shovel. We were forced to bail on our first attempt due to a snow storm, so the next time we began before the sun came up on a cloudless day.  The hike was straightforward on a dirt trail for about 3.5 miles until we hit the snowfield. We were both instantly blinded by the ivory blanket reflecting the sun.

We pulled out our glacier glasses and continued the ascent. Shortly after we stepped onto the snow field, the steepness made it difficult to keep our balance. We switched from hiking poles to the mountaineering axe and strapped on crampons. When mountaineering, there is often no trail to follow. Instead, you must assess the terrain and find the safest way up.  We saw previous slide paths from avalanches and made our best path zig-zagging through them.  The soft snow made it so we were postholing, meaning each step brought us waist-deep in the snow.

We made it to the ridge, cautious with each step between the 2,500-foot drop-offs on either side. Then, we began the final ascent, approximately 500 feet to the summit.  The closer we got to the peak, our hearts were pounding knowing we were almost there. At last, we summited East Twin Peak and gaped at the impeccable view. While catching our breath, we took our crampons off to walk around on the peak. Once we saw the other peak tantalizing us 528 feet away, we decided to finish the job.

We walked slowly on the thin knife blade of a ridge and enjoyed a break on the other peak. While taking photos, we heard a roaring sound echo around us, which sounded like a locomotive steaming by. It was an avalanche that broke loose on O’Sullivan peak a half-mile behind us and crashed down in the valley below.  That was our cue to exit and make our way back down the long and tedious descent.

Once we reached the open snow field, we could glissade down using our axe to self-arrest as we sped down. We removed our snow gear and stepped back onto the dirt trail, a few miles from our cars. At the journey’s end, we got in the car and looked back up toward the peak, neither of us believing the amazing climb we just endured. After mountaineering to the top of my first peak, I understand the desires each of those wild peak baggers have. Mountaineering is an addictive sport.

k.creveling@wasatchmag.com 

Photo by Kiffer Creveling

Corrected from “These are the men who helped define alpinism, the sport of climbing tall mountains.” on 4/12/17.

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Coping With FOMO

I ran into my buddy at the climbing gym the other day. He was planning a weekend trip to Arizona to kayak, and this was the first I had heard about it. He didn’t even think to invite me, and perhaps with good reason. I had my own plans to canyoneer in Hanksville, Utah with my UExplore class.

Most of the time, I think taking eight outdoor education classes in a single semester was the best decision I made since coming to college. But sometimes, I realize that while I’m practicing rappelling with my classmates, my buddies are out kayaking. While I’m learning quinzee construction in the Uintas, my friends are shredding eight inches of fresh powder at Alta. While I’m topping out on my first ice climb in Ouray, Colorado, my dorm friends are splashing around in the Subway in Zion National Park. Yes, it’s a little ridiculous to regret missing kayaking with your friends when you’re descending a canyon with other friends, but it’s hard to avoid; Utah is jam-packed with opportunities to have wild adventures. And the FOMO — the Fear Of Missing Out — can be all too real. Just look at the steady stream of ski hills and climbing routes inundating any outdoorsy Instagram feed.

Should we, as “outdoorsy millennials,” plunge headfirst into every random outdoor sport that comes our way — even if this means we won’t necessarily become expert or even proficient in any of them? Or should we focus our energy exclusively on one or two of our outdoor passions, sacrificing new and novel opportunities in other venues? There’s really nobody to tell you how to enjoy the outdoors, and moreover, no perfect recipe to balance your professional and academic careers with your outdoor passions. Sometimes, when you enjoy climbing,

mountaineering, canyoneering, skiing, ice climbing, kayaking, hiking and mountain biking, it’s a struggle to live in the moment — to fully appreciate the slope you’re skiing or the slab you’re climbing — because you’re so ensconced in indecision, in fear of missing out on other adventures. And don’t forget that finals are coming up and you’ve got a paper due Monday and you really should be studying. So how do you balance it all?

First of all, still go outside this weekend — even if you have seven papers due Monday. It’ll keep you sane. There’s no “recipe for recreation,” so go out and build your own adventure. Take eight UExplore classes if you want to — or maybe take two — or maybe take none. Let yourself be fully swept away when you’re kayaking and let climbing completely rock your world. Personally, the best means I’ve found to really live in the moment outside is to push myself as hard and as far as I possibly can. I want to be sure I am fully appreciating, exploring, and living in whatever space I find myself. There’s no use thinking the grass is greener or the peaks are higher somewhere else.

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Claire Simon

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Up in Flames: Crews Prep for Wildfire Season

When April showers subside and May foliage is dried out by incessant sunlight, Utah firefighters brace themselves for another season of near-constant summer wildfires along the Wasatch Front and beyond. Wildfires occur on a sporadic, unpredictable basis, but their regimented human counterparts remain on-the-ready, prepared to address developing infernos at any hour and in any condition.

The environmental influences of fires, both wild and man-made, are a mixed bag. “Fire has positive and negative impacts on ecosystems,” explains Jason Curry, Public Information Officer for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands. “Historically, fire has been a key component of ecosystem health in the West. Fires keep vegetation from getting overgrown and keeps things in balance.”

With the continually increasing human population and temperature in Northern Utah, this equilibrium becomes disrupted profoundly. “Since the early 1900s, the role of fire has changed: instead of small fires keeping vegetation in check, we get large fires that do catastrophic damage to ecosystems,” Curry says. “If fire burns at a low pace, it’s generally a good thing. Extreme fire behavior is generally negative.”

There is ultimately no ideal rate at which wildfires should occur. Most agree with Curry when he says they should happen “as often as nature will allow.” However ardently Smokey the Bear attempted to instill his message over the years, humans still remain responsible for over 90 percent of wildfires (in Utah’s case the remaining 10 percent can be attributed to lightning and other natural anomalies). Between these, there will likely be a wildfire every day of the summer, and that is not natural.

Fortunately, most wildfires are controlled within the first hour or two, but every year, a handful slip through the cracks. A fire on Antelope Island last July burned a whopping 15,330 acres, and another 20,614 acres blazed in Northern Utah’s Broad Canyon the following month.

The awe-inspiring capabilities of firefighting teams are due to efficiently connecting a massive network of individuals. According to the Utah Department of Natural Resources, every incident begins in virtually the same way: A wildfire is reported through 911, the operator dispatches fire engines, and the call is referred on to one of five Regional Interagency Fire Centers (IFC).

The IFC dispatches all available local resources capable of combating the fire, regardless of affiliation. The first firefighters on scene initially take command and report back to the IFC to assess the complexity of the fire. “As the fire increases in complexity, command may be transferred to someone with higher qualifications and more expertise.”

The “complexity analysis” ranges from the less technical Type 5 through severe and technical Type 1. Type 4 and 5 are representative of around 98 percent of Utah wildfires and require little more than a handful of local personnel to effectively extinguish them. When a fire progresses to Type 3, it enters the realm of “extended attack,” requiring multiple days and the assistance of personnel from outside of the local area, around 200 collectively. At Type 2 or 1, a pre-formed Incident Management Team comprised of 20-40 “overhead personnel” from various agencies oversee the fire. That might mean several hundred personnel dedicated to fighting the fire over several weeks, if not months. They pull out all stops, from fixed-wing “Air Attack” platforms to 10-12 person “Helitack Crews,” helicopter bucket ships then can drop more than 2,000 gallons of fire retardant or water.

Utah is the only state, aside from Alaska, that has Hotshot Crews employed and managed directly by the state government — all others are recognized as federal resources. These elite teams (of which our state has two) are hand crews of 20 firefighters vigorously trained in wildfire suppression tactics and are distinguished by exemplary physical fitness, expertise, and the ability to tackle the most stressful and technical of situations.

Rising global temperatures and ever-multiplying irresponsible outdoorsmen correlate with increasing wildfires in our high desert state. Local firefighters vigilantly stand by, ready to protect Utah’s ecosystem and people from the most ravenous of elements.

d.rees@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of FEMA

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