Dispatching firefighters to put out a fire without adequate water pressure is like expecting police officers to quell a riot without safety gear.
And, as residents of Oakland, Calif., and other areas realize, a fire out of control can destroy thousands of homes and other property - not to mention loss of life.Even though the population isn't as great locally, similar tragedies could occur in the canyons along the east side of Salt Lake County and in southwest quadrant of the county.
Building homes, cabins and other facilities in canyons and other rural settings has become increasingly popular. The size, density and other factors associated with the homes have, in many instances, left the majority of the properties without adequate fire protection.
That's why property owners and others should look favorably on a proposed ordinance this week from the Salt Lake County Fire Department. It suggests that permits for new building require access to a water hydrant capable of delivering 1,000 gallons of water per minute for two hours.
Hydrants in some canyon areas are capable of delivering less than 300 gallons per minute, which is less than a third of what firefighters say is needed. Some wells in Emigration and other canyons are dry, leaving residents without adequate culinary water. This alone is a clear indication of what firefighters are up against in fighting a blaze.
The proposed ordinance would be in line with state fire codes and with a uniform fire code now recognized throughout the western United States. Under the county ordinance, property owners who have already applied for a permit to start construction on a home would be allowed to do the work under existing rules. Among other things, the rules allow use of a 4,000-gallon water tank as an alternative water resource. But property owners just starting the building permit process would have to comply with the ordinance which, if approved by the county, would require access to hydrants and water mains.
The proposed new ordinance, which will be discussed at a meeting of the Big Cottonwood Canyon Association at 7 p.m. Monday in Alpine Rose Lodge at Brighton in Big Cottonwood Canyon, and at an upcoming public hearing before the County Commission, would apply everywhere in unincorporated Salt Lake County. That means that a building permit would not be issued in any area of Salt Lake County where there is substandard water pressure.
Homes can be rebuilt and areas burned by fire can be reseeded. But the lives of firefighters and people residing in cabins and other homes cannot be replaced.
While it may be opposed by some land speculators, the proposed ordinance reflects the best interests of the public and should be adopted and strictly enforced.