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Taking on Excellence: Utah

Blog Post created by megan.fitzgerald-mcgowan Employee on Jan 10, 2020

Wooden sign "Summit Park" surrounded by wildflowersIn this final piece of Taking on Excellence, we travel to Utah to learn more about Summit Park.  I had the chance to visit them over the summer, it is a beautiful place in the mountains with a variety of style of homes, just the type of place I would like to live.  But part of its beauty is what puts it at risk.  Mike Quinones, the resident leader of Summit Park, shares their story.

Can you describe your community for me and tell me why you choose to have a home there?  What do you love about your community?  

Summit Park was developed in the late 1950's and lies between 6800 to 8000 feet in elevation. We have approximately 820 lots with around 550 having been developed with single family homes. Some homes being built in the 1960's and some just being finished, so we have a wide range of architecture and building materials. Our community sits in the middle of dense conifer forest, which in the past has been neglected but has become recognized by our community, state and local agencies as a priority for fuel and forest health management projects. 

I live here because I enjoy mountain living and the challenges it offers. We receive a lot of snow, wildlife is common and it’s quiet and dark at night. The location is perfect as well. We're between Salt Lake City and Park City with skiing and mountain biking literally right out our back door.

Tell me about your community's journey in wildfire risk reduction.  What led you to Firewise USA and participation in the pilot?

Because of my wildland fire suppression experience, I recognized the need to address our threat. Nothing was being done in our county or the country at that time. I've been here for 35 years.  We started by me joining the HOA board and developing the CWPP when that was introduced. We developed a web page and started to educate our neighbors. We brought in the local FD and reached out to the State division of forestry and fire. We quickly qualified for a shaded fuel break project which launched more involvement.

Firewise came about when I recognized the advantages of being a member, the state also encouraged our involvement.  The Pilot Program was suggested by our WUI representative and I immediately knew we has to apply, it helps to validate the work we are trying to accomplish.

What are your goals in the pilot?

The ultimate goal is to get 100% homeowner participation with a secondary goal of providing data to the national agenda.

What are some challenges you think you might face?  

The biggest challenge to our journey is getting community members to recognize their responsibility to reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic fire in our community. We are so accustomed to having the notion the government should do something and they are to blame when they don't.  

There are two misconceptions I see. They are "it won’t happen to me (complacency) and the other is "it’s just too much work" (procrastination).   Everyone knows the threat, they watch the news and see the unprecedented losses. They’re the first to admit it when I talk to them, but when it comes to getting the job done, it’s not on most priority lists. However, the message it getting out and neighbors are talking. My expectations at first may have been to bold but when you put all the pieces together, we're making progress. Hopefully it won't be too late. 

How do you propose to overcome them?

I think it’s a multi pronged approach to set the new standard.  A combination of community, local and state agencies all on the same page pushing an aggressive agenda and implementing the narrative of personal responsibility. 

What else would you like to share?

The pilot program sparked an accelerated interest in fuel reduction, defensible space and home hardening. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next summer.

Thank you Mike for sharing your story. We appreciate Summit Park’s commitment to personal responsibility when it comes to wildfire risk reduction.  Can’t wait to see the progress you make over the next year.

A big thank you to all of the readers for joining us in learning about the pilot participants.  We look forward to sharing their results and lessons learned later in 2020 and 2021.

Is your community ready to take the next step in wildfire risk reduction?   Visit Firewise.org to learn more about how to organize your neighbors and get started.

Photos: Community sign and moose provided by Mike Quinones

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