UTAH (ABC4) – Monday, state leaders and fire officials met at a Little Dell Reservoir, pleading with Utahns to do their part to prevent wildfires as we’re headed into what could be a severe fire season.
“We are in for a challenging year again, May and June look really dry, really hot and we want to remind Utahns to use their fire sense,” said Kayli Yardley, Prevention and Fire Communications Coordinator for Utah’s Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
Utah, like much of the west, is in the grip of a historic drought.
“This drought is not just something we’ve had in the last year or two, this is part of the last 12 -15 years where two-thirds of those years have been much drier than normal,” said Basil Newmerzhycky, lead meteorologist for Great Basin Predictive services.
The Fire Sense campaign was started last year as an effort to spread awareness and education on fire safety. Local officials say the response to this was incredibly helpful.
“We saw 79 percent human-caused [fire starts] in 2020 and last year we were at 51 percent human-caused and I would love to see that trend continue,” said Yardley.
Although this is an improvement, it’s important to not let your guard down. This year, reservoirs are at a record low, lands are tinder dry and the snowpack is 25% below normal. These factors are pointing toward a potentially dangerous wildfire season.
“We’re seeing conditions, particularly in the southern mountains that are very dry, much below normal, and leading us to believe that we’re in for an early season down south and probably a long season as that dryness is predicted to just continue moving north,” Kevin Greenhalgh, the deputy director of Regional Fire & Aviation Management.
Later in August, Newmerzhycky says the risk of fires may lower depending on monsoonal moisture, but he and other experts say that years of dry conditions still leave potential for large wildfires.
Going into the warmer months, local officials are asking Utahns to do what they can to practice fire safety.
“We need to remember how quickly wildfire can start and spread,” said Lt. Gov Henderson.
Some fire safety tips they offered are:
- Make sure your car chains are properly secured and don’t drive into dry grass.
- Put your campfires out correctly — pouring waters on them and stirring ashes until they are no longer warm.
- Don’t target shoot near dry grass or vegetation. Exploding targets are not allowed on public lands.
- Only use fireworks where and when is legal. The legal launching period is July 2-5 and July 22-25. Fireworks are not allowed on public lands.
- Check fire conditions and weather when making your recreational plans or burning debris.