UTAH (ABC4) – Local fire officials say that fires raging in nearby states could be an indication of what we might be seeing in Utah, so it’s important to be prepared and keep fire safety in mind as we start heading into the warmer months. 

“We do look at Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, as things start to shape up for them in the fire season and it’s definitely been busy for them, it’s made us really pay attention,” said Jason Curry, the Deputy Director for the Utah Division of Forestry Fire and State Lands.

Curry says this means they’re preparing and getting crews ready to go as we could be seeing something similar in Utah. 

“The seasonal outlook is showing that [in] May and June, the southern part of the state being drier and fire activity picking up, and [in] June, July starts moving to the north so it’s gonna start affecting us on the Wasatch Front and the higher elevations,” said Captain Dan Cather with Provo Fire & Rescue.

Dry conditions like we’ve been seeing here and in these nearby states could impact the type of wildfire season we have this year.

“There is significant fire activity already in the southwest, Arizona and New Mexico, they like us are experiencing dry conditions right now and typically what happens is the fire season moves from south to north through the southwest,” said Larissa Yocom, an assistant professor in Fire Ecology at Utah State University.

In Utah, close to 100 percent of the state is experiencing severe drought or worse, with 44 percent in extreme drought. This year’s snowpack levels are 25 percent below normal.

“The snowpack is going to influence the way that the drought is impacted as well, it’s going to impact the wildfire season and that’s gonna make us have to be extra cautious when we are out recreating,” said Kayli Yardley, Prevention and Fire Communications for the Division of Forestry Fire and State Lands.

Yardley says everything in addition to this, winds like we’ve been seeing in April can cause things to dry out even more.  

But, one thing that could still play a factor is what kind of rain we get in the months to come.

“If we get a lot of rain in May, that could help a lot, it could make those fuels wet going in the hotter time of year,” said Yocom.

Cather says early season rain in June last year helped slow down wildfires for a time, but if we don’t see rain and continue in this drying trend, we could be seeing the same kind of fire season as last year, with the possibility of even more fires.

According to Yardley, 79 percent of wildfires were caused by people in 2020. That number dropped to 51 percent in 2021. Although this number is lower, she says it’s important to still be aware and do your part to prevent wildfires.

Officials say to check fire restrictions before you go out, make sure your vehicles are maintained and make sure your chains are properly secured and tightened. And of course, always make sure that your campfires are properly put out.

“I just ask everyone to think about what you’re doing and where you’re going and be safe when you’re doing it and just listen to the warnings that are out there and adhere to them,” Cather said. 
To learn more about wildfire safety, visit Utah Fire Sense. Check wildfire risks on DNR’s online portal.