Although wildfires are a healthy part of many ecosystems in the Intermountain West, the risk from catastrophic wildfires continues to increase in communities like Park City. Years of fire suppression, coupled with a hotter and drier climate and the continued development of subdivisions close to forestlands, presents the difficult challenge of trying to protect communities while also managing fire in a way that does not exacerbate climate change.
In 2019, Park City was among eight communities to recently receive a Leader in Community Resilience Program award from the National League of Cities (NLC). The award will support the city’s work in developing a biochar program to reduce excess forest fire fuels such as brush and wood debris, and return that carbon to Park City's soils.
Biochar is a charcoal-like material that can be used in carbon sequestration efforts. It is made by burning the excess forest fuels in an oxygen-free environment. Biochar is rich in carbon and in this case, will be collected from defensible spaces, that is the natural or landscaped area around a structure that is maintained and designed to reduce fire danger. Park City held a public demonstration in May 2019 to teach the public about how biochar is made, where it can be used on the landscape, and how it can reduce fire danger locally.
The forests surrounding most structures in the community contain a lot of poor-quality lumber that has the potential to be turned into biochar. This biochar, in turn, can be applied to farm fields and open spaces.