TOOELE COUNTY, Utah – Over the weekend there were 23 new fire starts. Fire officials say all but three were human-caused. They also say nearly all of the 20 human-caused fires were preventable. Now, fire officials, and Gov. Spencer Cox, are reminding Utahns to be fire-wise as well as encouraging them to forgo using personal fireworks during Pioneer Day celebrations.
Fire officials from the state and Tooele County, along with Gov. Spencer Cox, held a press conference Monday afternoon to discuss the current wildfires affecting the Beehive State.
The two largest fires are the Halfway Hill Fire near Fillmore and the Jacob City Fire in Tooele County. Resources from many Utah counties and other states remain on scene at the Jacob City Fire due to high winds and rough terrain that continue to pose a challenge in its containment.
The Halfway Hill Fire has burned more than 10,000 acres and the Jacob City Fire has burned more than 4,000 acres.
“You have the ability to make a difference,” Jamie Barns stated during the press conference. She is the director and state forester for the Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands. She added, “These fires don’t just put a strain on state resources, but they also have an impact on the resources that are available in each community across the state.”
By Monday afternoon, fire crews were able to contain all but a handful of the 23 new fire starts. “We’ve been really lucky to catch fires in the initial attack phase thanks to the hard work of our volunteer firefighters,” Dan Walton explained. Walton is the fire warden for Tooele County. He continued, “Typically, we’re quite successful at keeping fires under 10 acres.”
While most of the fires were contained within 10 acres, fire officials said with so many new fires starting at the same time, resources are stretched making it impossible to get to all fires fast enough to get them quickly contained. They said the Jacob City Fire is a perfect example of that.
“We can make a difference,” Joel Ferry said.
Ferry is the new director of the Department of Natural Resources. “These fires are indicative of this drought situation that we’re going through,” he said. “It’s extreme. The worst drought any of us have ever seen in our lifetimes, and these fires will continue. We have to do our part.”
Fire officials explained that nearly every fire that started over the weekend was preventable. Ferry urged Utahns to do their part to prevent any other fires. He added, “We need to be very, very careful with how we’re recreating, how we’re using fires, what we’re doing in our lives, chains on our cars, where we park our cars in the grass, campfires that we’re building, you know, just making sure that we’re being safe.”
Gov. Spencer Cox spent his birthday traveling to Tooele County to visit the growing Jacob City Fire. While there, he urged Utahns to be careful and follow fire restrictions across the state. He also encouraged them to forgo personal fireworks during the July 24 celebrations.
He said, “I’m sure our ancestors will be very pleased with the professional firework shows and not the one in your yard that sets other people’s houses on fire.”
And should a person accidentally start a wildfire, Gov. Cox had one thing to say: “Let me reiterate, you will be held responsible if you start a fire. You will be held civilly responsible, and you may be held criminally responsible if you violate any laws in starting that fire.”