BEAVER — A juniper and pinion-packed area about 6 miles southwest of Beaver has the potential to be a catastrophic wildfire, according to Bureau of Land Management officials.
The Bureau of Lane Management has prescribed a controlled burn for a 10,000-acre area along the Greenville Bench, planned for next month. But some homeowners who live nearby aren't so sure it's a good idea.
"The way we see it, if we reset this on our term, it'll be much less devastating than on nature's terms," said Nick Howell of the BLM.
Howell said a prescribed burn of this size has only been attempted once before in Utah on the neighboring ridgeline in 2009.
Howell said, "10,000 acres is really a significant sized project, especially when you're dealing with a prescribed fire. It's a really risky business."
A controlled burn is tricky because the weather has to be just right to allow firefighters to keep the blaze under control. Additionally, helicopters drop a diesel gasoline gel, which Howell compared to napalm, to promote burning in the prescribed area.
Hundreds of firefighters are going to be on site, making sure the burn stays controlled.
Howell said preventative measures, like a prescribed burn, "really do keep the large wildfires from happening."
Homeowners aren't sold on the benefits of a prescribed burn. They remember the 2009 burn as an ugly mess that went on far longer than it needed to.
Firefighter Lynn Cartwright participated in the controlled burn in 2009.
"It was a little uncomfortable the last time with all the smoke," said homeowner Lynn Cartwright. "It's something you deal with — you have to — but I don't see any reason for it."
But firefighters also remember the Milford Flat Fire in 2007. It was the state's biggest wildfire ever, and it burned over 363,000 acres.
Howell said they don't want to see the same scenario unfold in the overgrown brush on the Greenville Bench, and he said a prescribed burn works.
"This was one of our most fire-prone areas. And it's definitely not as fire-prone as it was in the past because of previous treatments."
The prescribed burn on the Greenville Bench will take place in May, weather permitting, and will be one of 16 planned burns in southern Utah to take place in the coming months as preventative measures.