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Utah firefighters have learned lessons after tragic 2013 Arizona wildfire
Safety » Among the lessons is prioritizing lives over property.

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"Whenever we have a tragedy within the wild land fire arena, we definitely reflect every year on those sorts of accidents and try to analyze what went wrong and/or how we can make sure this doesn’t happen again," said Heather O’Hanlon, spokeswoman for the Utah BLM.

Amid all of the lessons that firefighters can takeaway, there has been a push for residents to meet them halfway, such as by clearing vegetation around their homes to create what’s called defensible space.

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"What we’ve talked about in the firefighter community as a whole, we’re kind of disappointed with homeowners in that urban interface," said Jason Kirks, a BLM fire management specialist in the Moab office. "In the wake of all the tragedy, and all the homes that have burned down, and people are [still] not fixing up their property. We’re very disappointed that people are not doing what they need to do."

The Rockport 5 Fire tore through Summit County last August and destroyed eight homes. But resident Pat Pike’s was spared, the flames ending right at his driveway — apparently thanks to the time he spent removing brush from his property, long before the fire started.

Kirks hope others will learn from that.

"You’ll see that over and over again," Kirks said. "A large destructive fire, one or two homes survive, a lot of times the homeowner did something to [make their home safer beforehand]."

Clark pointed homeowners to UtahFireInfo.gov, where they can learn how to preemptively protect their homes.

Experts forecast that this wildfire season will be a "normal" one, with an expected El Nino keeping temperatures down and humidity up. But Curry pointed out that tragedy strikes in the average years, too.

As O’Hanlon said, "Sometimes Mother Nature just gets the better of you."

— The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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