SOUTHERN UTAH NEWS: Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane, Piute, San Juan, Washington, and Wayne counties

Firefighters anticipate ‘challenging’ wildfire season in Southern Utah

Southern Utah

ST. GEORGE (ABC4 News) — Wildfires are already popping up around the Southwest and here in Utah, and fire managers in the St. George area are asking people to prepare for what could be a ‘busy and challenging’ fire season with probable fire restrictions.

After such a wet winter and spring, fire experts say grasses in Southern Utah are tall and drying out very rapidly — ready to burn.

“The humidities are low, the temperatures are warm, so we’re ramping up very quickly for an active fire season,” said Mike Melton, fire management officer for Utah’s Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands in Southern Utah, adding that his crews are already responding to small fires nearly every day.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Melton said firefighters are even more careful to keep each other safe by social distancing, wearing masks, and limiting large gatherings — adding they’re also noticing a significant increase in outdoor recreation, which will likely cause many more ignitions.

“We get our intensity though the brush and the timber and those sorts of things but the grass and the other surface fuels are what carry the fire,” Melton said. “If it’s spark causing, if its heat causing, you can cause a wildfire.”

“Please be especially careful where you build campfires, completely extinguish campfires with water and be cognizant of where you park your vehicle. A hot exhaust system or embers from a campfire can result in a very dangerous situation for firefighters and the public,” Melton said, adding that grinding of metal is one of the leading causes of blazes in Southwest Utah.

Melton said human-caused fires represent 50% of the area’s fires. He said all of them are preventable.

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