By Leann Fox, Communications and Prevention Coordinator Utah Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands | March 21, 2019

WUI Grant Helps Reduce Threat to Woodland Hills

Group of people gathered around tables
First community meeting to plan the Woodland Hills Project (2012).

At the south end of Utah County at the base of the Mt. Nebo Watershed is the City of Woodland Hills. Every spring and fall, in close partnership with Utah County Fire and Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands have been cutting and chipping hazardous fuels to reduce the threat of fire around homes within the Woodland Hills community.

Funded in 2013 through the Western States Wildland Urban Interface Grant, wildfire fuel reduction projects have been occurring within the community. Project have included cutting a 56 ft wide strip along the eastern emergency exit of the community, and proposed cutting a 300 ft wide three mile-long fuel break on the eastern slope above the community, as well as funding an annual chipper day to aid community members to reduce fuel hazards around their properties.

After beginning the three mile long fuel break, a landslide transecting the proposed fuel break ultimately hindered the fuel break construction. Instead, funding was transitioned to thinning oakbrush on large parcels of land within the community.

“Most homes within the community have wooden frame construction and wooden decks with dense oak and maple stands that are overstocked with dead material,” said Katie Gibble, Wasatch Front Area WUI Coordinator. “Development was geared around the privacy provided by dense oakbrush shrubs.”

Prior to the project, many roads were too narrow or overgrown for access by emergency vehicles. Fires have occurred in the community, including the Mt. Nebo Fire of 2010. More recently, in September, 2018 the entire community was evacuated during the Pole Creek Fire. The Woodland Hills project aimed to reduce hazardous fuels that increase the wildfire risk to the community, and to modify potential extreme fire behavior to a level that could be more effectively controlled. This project leveraged the high concern and motivation of the community to take action to reduce wildfire hazards.

After five years, the grant closed in June, 2018. Overall, 150 acres of fuels were thinned within Woodland Hills over the course of this grant. And, while on paper, 150 acres has value, the real value of the project was engaging  the community in mitigating the wildfire hazards that exist in this community said Gibble. Gibble said, “Getting communities to recognize that the hazard exists is an uphill battle, but once that message is understood, it’s amazing to see communities start to take action on their own.”

Crew member walks beginning of fuel break being cut on east side of Woodland Hills.