IRON COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – After three days of confronting the Choke Cherry Fire, firefighters have increased containment of the blaze to 40%.
Utah Wildfire Info says the Iron County fire has been mapped at 660 acres.
As of Thursday morning, nine engines and two hand crews remain assigned to the Choke Cherry Fire and continue to make progress, despite the steep, rocky terrain.
Photos shared by Utah Wildfire Info show charred trees and dry grounds, as well as white smoke in the area.
Officials began responding to the fire near Hamlin Valley on Monday. At the time, Utah Wildfire Info reported the smoke column was visible from Cedar City.
On Tuesday, firefighters were able to halt forward progress on the Choke Cherry Fire, with the help of aircraft and bulldozers.
Investigators have determined the fire was caused by a legally-permitted burn that was not properly extinguished. Wind reignited the fire, which then quickly spread to the drought-stressed vegetation nearby.
Crews recently got a Tooele County fire – the Little Pass Fire – 100 contained. Investigators have determined the fire was human-caused.
What causes Utah’s wildfires
Over a ten-year average, about 60% of Utah’s wildfires were human-caused, according to Kaitlyn Webb, Statewide Prevention and Fire Communications Coordinator for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
In 2020, a record-breaking 77% of Utah’s wildfires were caused by humans. The top cause of fires in Utah is lightning, according to Webb, but that is quickly followed by fires caused by equipment – a human cause.
“That includes anything from a dragging chain, blown tire, a vehicle parking over dry grass, exhaust or brakes- so those types of starts are our second-highest cause but our highest human-caused start in the state,” Webb explains.
Other top causes include debris-burning, campfires, and miscellaneous, like cutting, welding, firearm use, and fireworks – all human-caused.
With four of Utah’s top five causes of wildfires being human-caused, here’s what can be done to prevent starting them in the first place. Webb says a good place to start is being aware and asking some questions, like how dry has it been, how windy is it, and others regarding the weather conditions.
What to do if you start a fire
“Immediately report it,” Webb says. “The quicker that fire resources are of aware of a start, the quicker they can respond, hopefully, the smaller they can keep the wildfire and the less risk there is.”
Staying on the scene to answer questions as firefighters arrive can also be very helpful, Webb states.
Webb says if you came prepared with the right equipment, such as a fire extinguisher, water, or shovel, you can try to put it out without placing yourself at risk.
“The first step is really making sure you have the right equipment when you’re out and about doing whatever it is you may be doing.”
To prevent wildfires caused by campfires, make sure to follow these three steps: drown, stir, and feel. Webb says pouring water on a campfire is not enough. Stirring water into the ashes can release heat that can build up and work its way back to the surface.
“If it’s cool enough to touch, then it’s cool enough to leave,’ she explains.
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