Marijuana, Lockdowns, Fire, Construction – All a Part of Emergency Preparedness


By Julie Johansen

Emery County Sheriff’s Office detectives Jerod Curtis and John Barnett recently gave a briefing on the marijuana grow found recently near Castle Dale. They also reported on the school lockdown and evacuation training in the Emery School District.

Detective Curtis reported that the marijuana find was substantial, especially for Emery County. The sheriff’s office confiscated 133 live growing plants that were 6-7 feet tall. They also found 120 plants drying and 13 totes full of buds. The street value was around $100,000. A very sophisticated watering system had been installed, watering soil, greenhouse potted plants and swam area. This find came from a tip from a neighboring property owner looking for his horse. Marijuana is illegal in Utah and so the officers investigated and arrested the older gentleman growing these plants. He was detained only temporarily.

School lockdown and trainings are held to protect students. Before each mock lockdown is conducted, officers visit the school and talk with students and staff to inform them of what will happen during the procedure. Though the numbers of fatalities is much higher in the U.S. for active shooters than school fires, there are many more fire drills than active shooter drills. Instruction has changed in these situations. Teachers, staff and students were previously instructed to hide and get down, but instruction now tells them to fight back with all they can find or have. One of the biggest problems with these type of situations is parents who are naturally very concerned that may hamper the situation. Officers are also concerned about businesses and communities. One thing citizens need to remember if found in these situations is to make sure officers can see your hands. They are concerned about educating the public. All agencies of law enforcement, sheriff’s deputies, UHP, DWR, State Park Rangers, work together to protect all.

Hal Stevens from the Forest Service gave an overview of the Fly Canyon Fire that began by lightning on Sept. 8. It burned 2,866 acres. He remarked that a lot of thought goes into whether to suppress a fire or let it burn. They consider the fuel moisture and possibility of the fire growing into strategic areas of concern. They had previously attempted a prescribed burn in this area but needed to protect the large power transmission line that crosses that valley, as well as other preventive reasons. The prescribed burns are still going through a NEPA process. There are five rights for a managed burn: Plan, Place, Time, Assists and Duration. Top priority has changed to protect human life first.  All human caused fires must be suppressed.

Janalee Luke from the Emery County Sheriff’s Office then gave county updates on the Millsite Dam Project, Cottonwood Creek Project, sandbagging, dynamite/Utah County Bomb Squad and the Pre-disaster Mitigation Plan. Millsite Dam is still on schedule with construction scheduled to begin in August of 2017 and finished in 2018. There are currently eight contractors bidding for the project. The Cottonwood Creek project stretches from the water treatment plant in Orangeville Canyon to the east end of Castle Dale. It has met a few problems, but funding expires the end of October so activity is continuing. Sandbags and sand are always available at the sheriff’s office and inmates will fill them.  Emery County recently helped Carbon County with 5,000 bags. A dynamite stash was recently uncovered in Emery County and the Utah bomb squad came with its robot and detonated the stash. She warned if anyone finds any explosives, please call the sheriff’s office; the bomb squad is only two hours away. The County is also looking for anyone who would like to be on the pre-disaster mitigation committee to contact the sheriff’s office.  


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