SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Anticipating what could be one of the driest, and therefore, most challenging wildfire seasons in state history, Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox is calling on residents to exercise “Fire Sense.”
Standing in front of a couple of fire trucks and other vehicles used to combat wildfires, Cox earnestly addressed the state while describing the importance of making behavioral adjustments and making good choices during the fire season.
“I am asking, I am begging all Utahns to do their part to prevent wildfires,” Cox said at the program’s introductory press conference.
The public service campaign, called “Fire Sense,” was designed in collaboration with state officials and interagency fire officials to make Utahns aware of the importance of fire-conscious decisions when recreating during the spring and summer months.
According to a press release from Utah Fire, 100% percent of the state is in a drought, with 90% in an extreme drought condition. Cutting down on human-caused wildfires in the outdoors has become a vital focus for Utah Fire and Governor Cox, as all but eight of the 227 reported wildfires in the state this year have been human-caused, and in Cox’s words, “completely preventable.”
“Where we’re starting from and where we’re going is not good,” Cox stated at the beginning of the press conference.
Giving examples of ways Utahns can exercise good “fire sense,” Cox asked residents to be aware of a few things when enjoying the outdoors this year.
First, Cox asked Utahns to be aware of where they park their cars on a hot day, adding that parking a vehicle on dry grass can be dangerous.
The governor also urged residents to keep campfires in an enclosed ring with a extinguisher on hand. Additionally, campfires should not be left unattended.
A fan of shooting, himself, Cox urged firearm enthusiasts to move their target shooting to an indoor range this summer. According to him, target shooting in a dry area has led to some of the most devastating wildfires in the state.
Finally, Cox reminded those who are heading out to enjoy a camping trip or time outside to check the chains on their trailers or trucks. A loose chain dragging on the ground can cause a spark, which in a dry area, can lead to a fire.
Great Basin Predictive Services meteorologist Basil Newmerzhycky followed Cox’s remarks by providing charts and maps indicating that Utah is already trending upwards in terms of wildfires this year. It’s projected to get even worse, according to Newmerzhycky, who added that June is typically the worst month of the year for fires.
“By July, we’re likely going to see all-time highs,” Newmerzhycky added. “It’s what we’re bracing for.”
According to Newmerzhycky, getting through the first few months of the summer will be crucial to how the state fares this year.
“We live in a remarkable state, it’s beautiful,” Utah Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Brian Steed added. “We are all in this together. Utah is tinder-dry, we don’t expect that to get better. Please help us not to burn the state down.”
Last year, according to Steed, 80% of Utah wildfires, or 1,200, were human-caused and preventable.