Fire officials warn of public safety risk due to increasing preventable fires in Utah

Wildfires 2020

The Traverse Fire burns behind homes in Lehi, Utah, Sunday, June 28, 2020. Officials say fireworks caused the wildfire and forced evacuations early Sunday morning. (Justin Reeves via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Firefighters say they are responding to an all-time high number of preventable, human-caused fires and are asking the public to be more careful.

“Fireworks and abandoned campfires are causing a lot of problems for firefighters in Utah right now,” Fire Management Officer Brett Ostler states.  “A significant increase in public outdoor recreation and careless actions are contributing to the number of ignitions. These preventable fires significantly increase the public safety risk,” Ostler said.

Interagency fire managers say they expect dangerous wildfire conditions in Utah to continue, especially for the short-term in the lower elevations where many people live, work and recreate.

Stay out: Bureau of Land Management restricts access to areas near Knolls fire

“Fire restrictions are already in place in many areas of Utah,” Ostler added. Until or if monsoonal moisture reduces fire danger, expect fire restrictions to be elevated in critical areas. 

Utah’s fireworks laws, in addition to state and federal agencies, emphasize that it is illegal to possess or ignite fireworks on state or federally administered lands.  Officials say if convicted, fines can reach up to $100,000 and responsible party(s) will be billed for all fire suppression costs, which frequently exceeds $50,000 for larger wildfires.

Although the Traverse, Avenue R, Turn Key and Catfish fires in northern Utah were ignited by fireworks, officials are asking the public to be careful where they build campfires. They added that those who light campfires should completely extinguish campfires with water and be aware of where they park their vehicle.

Knolls Fire burns 13,000 acres, officials say fire was human-caused

“A hot exhaust system or embers from a campfire can result in a very dangerous situation for firefighters and the public,” Ostler said. 

Fireworks season according to fire officials is as follows. Their use is discouraged near vegetation and is not advised on windy days.

  • July 2 – 5
  •  July 22 – 25
  • Dec. 31 – Jan. 1

The public is advised to check local laws to find out if fireworks are legal where they live.

The public is encouraged to take a few minutes to take the SparkChange pledge to prevent human-caused wildfires in Utah by visiting sparkchange.utah.gov.

Fires are burning across the state include the Traverse Fire in Lehi, the Rock Path Fire in Millard County, and the Volcano Fire in southern Utah.

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