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Murray Journal

City Signs Fire Rehab Agreement; Residents Ask for Prevention Measures

Sep 14, 2015 11:37AM ● By Bryan Scott

Grasses grow tall in the Murray City-owned property that caught fire March 31, threatening the adjacent homes. (photo by Scott Bartlett)

By Scott Bartlett

The recent grass fire along Jordan River Parkway in Murray came within about 20 feet of burning down the adjacent Aberdeen townhome neighborhood. As Murray City works to mitigate the damage, local residents with vivid memories of their homes nearly being destroyed are asking for measures to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again.

Just 20 feet, a distance easily covered in six or seven casual paces, was all that separated lives and homes from the flames.

The fire started around 6:30 p.m. on March 31, in the wetlands along the Jordan River Parkway near 4800 South. Firefighters were able to save every home through quick action. But, with the fire being so close to homes, it would have taken only an ounce of bad luck for the homes to have been lost or for residents to have been injured.

The fire melted the vinyl fence separating the townhome property from the grassy, Murray City-owned property along the parkway. Also destroyed in the fire were a cell tower and portions of the boardwalk crossing the wetlands. The fence and boardwalk have since been repaired.

Authorities quickly apprehended a juvenile suspected of starting the fire.

In its July 7 meeting, the Murray City Council approved an agreement with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, providing funding to restore the property. The agreement states that the state agency will provide up to $20,000 in reimbursement funds to the city to remove hazardous trees, treat invasive vegetation and restore native vegetation in an effort to prevent future fire hazards.

For its part, the city is to provide labor for the project and acquire the necessary materials through its typical procurement process. Many local residents have already volunteered their time. The deadline for completing the work and receiving reimbursement is June 30, 2016.

Present at the July 7 council meeting were Jerry Budd, Peggy Call and Steve Madsen, representing the Aberdeen Homeowners Association. Each voiced deep appreciation for the work the firefighters did in saving their homes, as well as concern about making sure future fires are prevented.

Budd, the association president, thanked the city’s emergency services for their quick response to the fire. As a follow up to a letter the association previously sent to the city, he requested a meeting with Mayor Ted Eyre, the city attorney, the fire and police departments, risk management and the city council to discuss what might be done to reduce fire risk.

Call, the association treasurer, said her biggest concern was protecting life and property. She said emergency responders were to be commended for their quick action and investigation, but felt that the homeowners association was having a difficult time continuing discussions with the city on fire prevention.

Madsen, the association vice president, also praised the emergency response. He pointed out the extreme danger of the situation, mentioning that a shift in the wind could easily have led to lost homes and lives.

“The fire department was pretty impressive in how they dealt with this,” Madsen said. “We just don’t want this to happen again.” 

He pointed out that the vegetation is already at a higher level than when the fire nearly destroyed his home.

As restoration efforts continue, the physical reminders of the fire are quickly fading. These homeowners, however, won’t soon forget the wall of flames that came within what must have surely seemed like inches of destroying their homes and even claiming lives.