Utah’s 2019 wildfire season: The latest numbers

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PROVO (ABC4 News) – Firefighters continue to battle the Alaska Fire in Utah County as of Wednesday evening, which investigators believe to be human-caused and burning close to 400 acres. Officials said so far this year, 73 percent of Utah’s wildfires were human-caused and completely preventable.

According to the Great Basin Coordination Center, there’s been 447 wildfires in Utah. Compared to last year’s total number of 1,334 fires, this year’s season may seem tame because by this time last year, Governor Gary Herbert had declared a state of emergency for wildfires.

“Every wildfire season has a different personality and this year, compared to last year, it’s two different worlds,” said Jason Curry, Public Information Officer for Utah Division of Forestry Fire and State Lands.

Curry said Utah’s healthy snowpack and spring rain made a world of difference for this year’s wildfire season.

“It enabled all those fuel moistures that were record low last year to rebound and regain their moisture,” he said.

In some areas like Duchesne County where the Dollar Ridge Fire was or in Utah County where the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain Fires were, Curry said the fire danger is slightly lower because of areas that were already burned.

“Those fire scars will remain and they will continue to be less susceptible to large catastrophic fires and that’s a natural cycle that’s been in place for thousands of years. It’s kind of one of the reasons we say not all fire is bad fire,” he said.

That’s doesn’t mean Utahns should take this year’s wildfire season lightly. So far, it’s cost the state $3.5 million with more than 11,417 acres burned.

“There was a later start to this season so all things being equal, you would expect the peak of wildfire season is here would also be a little later so that might be right now,” said Curry. “Maybe this is our peak and as we continue to see the weather pattern change and a little bit of monsoon come in, that’ll change things most definitely.”

He urges Utahns to be more aware and conscious of fire safety.

“Every fire that starts is taxpayer money spent. It’s lives put in danger. It’s homes put in danger and other things put at risk so it’s absolutely imperative that people take this seriously,” he said. “We continually have these human-caused fires that represent more than half. A lot of it is folks just not understanding how fires might be started, so we encourage everyone to learn more about that.”

For tips on how to prevent wildfires and take a pledge to be fire conscious, click here.

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