HERRIMAN -- Helicopters will begin flying over Herriman Tuesday on a mission to reseed hundreds of acres burned by a wildfire in September.
The Machine Gun Fire burned about 4,300 acres. The city plans to reseed 2,125 total acres.
"This includes the burn scar in Herriman and unincorporated Salt Lake County (excluding Camp Williams)," says Herriman City spokeswoman Nicole Martin. She says 1,850 acres will be aerial seeded. About 275 acres will be seeded by hand.
The helicopter being used Tuesday is from Mountain West Helicopters and can lift about 6,000 pounds of seed, but it only takes about 19 minutes to unload before it will need to come back for more.
The seed being used is a specialized seed mix that will help contain the area and prevent erosion of the hillside until the natural vegetation can fully recover in the next three to five years.
"The quicker we can get the seed on the ground the better," said Martin. "This is not the optimal time, but getting it on the ground is important. And again we'll be looking at the efforts come springtime as well."
The ground effort begins Thursday. Martin says all day Thursday and Friday volunteers will work on reseeding the areas by hand that are easily reachable, like the base of the mountain and up the hillside that borders homes.
Resident Mark Gamblin and his family are anxious to help with re-seeding efforts.
"We were evacuated and the hillside was on fire, and now we have the opportunity to help, to reseed and hopefully prevent some mudslides this coming spring," he said.
In fact, his 17-year-old son Jared has turned this into an Eagle Scout project, rallying many of his high school friends to help this weekend.
"I kind of wanted to help out and see what I could do, especially since the fire burned and we got evacuated," Jared Gamblin said. "More people have been coming up to me and talking to me at school and church. They've also really wanted to get involved."
His family measured out 15-pound bags of seed to distribute to volunteers to spread by hand.
"The helicopters are covering the high stuff, but down low close to the houses they can't get it," Mark Gamblin said.
Martin says this is something the city must move quickly on.
"We are hoping to get that seed on the ground as quickly as possible, knowing it could take up to five years before the hillside is fully vegetated as it was before," says Martin.
Other things will help right away. Workers will build debris basins and silt fences to guard residents from potential flooding and landslides.
Also Monday, Herriman City has construction crews building erosion prevention structures above the subdivision The Cove at Herriman Springs. So far 12 creek dams and four sub fences have been completed.
"Getting those structures in place is all the more important, if and when we do have a storm that is more torrential," Martin said.
Once that area is secure crews will continue to move eastward, building structures along the areas where the hillside is vulnerable as was designed by the National Resources Conservationist Service.
Martin says 500 volunteers and 16 Eagle Scout projects are involved in this effort. The volunteers will walk a grid system to hand seed an area that wraps around the base of the mountain within 200 yards of the fire line.
The rebuilding is being funded by a $400,000 grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The grant is paying for is paying for the seeding as well as the construction of silt fences and debris basins that also started Tuesday.
All of those structures must be finished by the end of the month to meet the terms of the grant.
The city is matching the grant by 25 percent, which it is doing through city funds. Much of that cost will be lowered because of in-kind donations by the volunteers who will be out reseeding the hillside by hand.
"It will take roughly three to five years for this area to fully vegetate," Martin said. "This is a specialized seed mix that will help contain that area, hopefully until the natural vegetation returns."