My friend Marc just found out his house wasn’t destroyed in the Marshall Fire in Louisville, Colorado—but our friend Josh’s was. I know more than 50 people who’ve evacuated or lost their homes from ten separate fires in 2021 alone.

John and I were at our dear friends Holly and Colby’s house in Pack Creek watching the fire explode while numerous airplanes and helicopters flew overhead dumping retardant and water. I watched as the fire topped the southern ridge of Pack Creek, horrified that it was only a few miles from possibly reaching my home. I watched flames rising behind my friend Robert Fulghum’s house. I saw what I believe was Ken Sleight’s Quonset hut on fire next to those huge beloved cottonwood trees. The three of us fled to my house three miles southwest of the ranch. We came back the next day, guided by law enforcement, but had to turn back because the wind shifted. In total, four homes burned and numerous outbuildings were destroyed and almost 10,000 acres burned. Every week, we go up to Pack Creek to Holly’s home which has been a main source of income for us for 16 years and every time my heart breaks to see the devastation of a place I love so dearly. Pack Creek Ranch is forever changed. The mountain forever changed.

For the last eight years I’ve had friends in Arizona, Colorado, California, Washington, Utah, and British Columbia all threatened by wildfire and being forced to evacuate or losing their homes.

I have been pleading with public land managers, SITLA, the state of Utah, county commissions, and city councils to be proactive in regards to fires. 2021 was a horrible failure. In 2020/2021 we saw historical drought with scientists telling us this region is already in the dreaded two degrees above Celsius, double the global average. We are still in severe and extreme drought, we’ve been in a continuous drought for the last 20 years.

In 2022, I again implore all of those same agencies and governments to be proactive in protecting the residents, the wildlife and the lands. OHV/UTVs create a serious risk in starting fires and need to be better regulated. Campfires, target shooting and fireworks should be banned. I know most land managers are weary of bans but we’ve seen the ramifications of continually allowing people to indulge in these activities. It’s just too dangerous to allow people to do these things during such extreme droughts. How many fires will it take to finally bring the hammer down and regulate? How many homes, how much land has to be destroyed, how many lives lost? I know that lightning or a downed power line can start fires but those things are generally out of our control. These other precautions aren’t.

I’ve packed up my belongings for the past three summers because of fires. I pleaded with the BLM and Forest Service to ban campfires and other fire-causing activities numerous times early in 2021 and again three days before the Pack Creek fire. There may be snow on the ground now but spring will be here soon with its accompanying winds and heat drying out the landscape. Millions of visitors will be coming here who are unaware of the serious drought we are living in and need to be educated. Once again the threat of devastating fires will be at our door.

Kiley Miller