BOUNTIFUL, Utah -- A Bountiful man is apologizing to his neighbors in an unconventional way, after sparks from machinery on his property started a wildfire a little more than a week ago.
No homes burned in the Bountiful Summerwood Fire, but residents were put on standby to evacuate when the blaze first started on August 29.
Jayson Orvis said a worker was helping build a kids coaster on his property that afternoon.
“He was working on metal with an angle grinder, and shot sparks on the ground,” he explained.
Orvis owns 300 acres in the Summerwood area, in the hills above Bountiful. He said he builds adventure zones for his kids—like a ropes course, zip line, climbing tower and coaster.
He explained that the hot, dry conditions meant the sparks from the grinder quickly took off through the brush.
“He had a fire extinguisher there, but he just couldn't get to it in time,” Orvis said, of the worker. “The next thing you knew, he was standing in 20 feet of fire.”
Firefighters quickly arrived, as the wildfire ballooned to 150 acres and residents were put on standby.
“We were terrified that it was going to burn down into our neighborhood,” Orvis said. “I could just imagine the neighbors as they packed up the cars.”
By the next day, crews began to make significant headway on the fire and it was no longer a threat to homes in the area.
In the end, he says it burned more than 50 acres on his property, and the rest on Forest Service land.
“Once they were saying, ‘Yeah, we think we’re on top of it,’ we started to feel like, ‘Wow, we're going to dodge a bullet,’” Orvis said, of his relief.
But, the ordeal left him feeling terrible—especially for his neighbors.
“We were just at our wit's end,” he said. “How do you say, ‘Sorry for stressing out the entire neighborhood?’”
Orvis ended up giving out jars of chokecherry jam to his neighbors, with an apology note attached.
“There's no proper way to say, ‘terribly sorry for scaring everyone half-to-death’ but we thought our favorite homemade jam might be a good start,” the note reads.
It continues, “…when you taste it, you might begin to forgive us for the nuisance and heartbreak that came with thinking we might lose our wonderful neighborhood.”
Orvis said they harvest chokecherries in the area, and usually hand out their jam at Christmas.
The gift, came early this year.
But now his neighbors plan to give the Orvis family a gift of their own—by showing up Saturday morning, to re-seed his burnt property.
“Even though this was a terrible accident,” he said, “they still felt we were part of the neighborhood family. It was an incredible response.”
In the note attached to the jam, Orvis said they’re meeting with the fire chief to work on a fire suppression and response plan, “to better prepare the forest properties uphill of Summerwood to help block future fires.”