Fire Department continues proactive wildfire management in Thunderbird Gardens recreation area

CEDAR CITY — The Cedar City Fire Department is continuing the proactive management of the Thunderbird Gardens recreation area to reduce the risk and impact of wildfires in the area.

After Utah’s record-breaking 2012 wildfire season, Gov. Gary R. Herbert tasked state and local land managers with developing and implementing a comprehensive plan to limit wildfire destruction through proactive measures and by reducing overgrown vegetation in strategic areas prone to wildfire.

According to a press release from the Cedar City Fire Department, one of those strategic areas is Thunderbird Gardens, partially managed by Cedar City through a cooperative agreement with federal land managers.

Fire Chief Mike Phillips told Cedar City News the management plan began in 2019.

“We went up there and cut a bunch of vegetation and piled it up throughout the summer, and then when there was snow on the ground this last winter we burned those piles,” Phillips said.

Phillips said the project is ongoing as the weather allows work.

“It’s going to take a long time to clear that area out,” he said.

The management plan involves thinning overgrown vegetation, such as invasive juniper species, in order to reduce the risk of wildfires and increase firefighter safety, then using prescribed fires to remove cleared vegetation.

“We’ve just been up there reducing the fuel load up in that recreation area, just to minimize the impact of a fire if we had one up there,” Phillips said.

Visitors to the area may notice remnants of the project while recreating, and Phillips said those are temporary.

“There’s some piles that we didn’t get burned that we’re still going to burn,” he said. “Where we burned, there’s the little scar where the burn pile was, but that all is short term.”

Phillips added that removing an invasive species can have a positive impact on the wildlife in the area.

“It takes away that invasive juniper species, and we’ve left the pinions, which are natural to the environment,” he said. “It does open up the ground for more grasses for the wildlife.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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