SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – An active start to Utah’s wildfire season has fire crews already battling hundreds of wildfires statewide, many of them human-caused.
This year alone, human-caused fires in Utah are up compared to last year.
The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands reported, as of Wednesday, 294 human-caused fires. Last year at this time, there were 285.
“Last year was a record-breaking year for human-caused fires. Unless we see a serious change in behavior in the public, really soon, we’re on track to meet or break that record again,” said Kait Webb, a fire spokesperson with the FFSL.
Models predict above-normal fire potential for June and July – if human behavior does not change, Webb said.
“The fires that started up yesterday, firefighters were reporting seeing August-like behavior,” Webb said. “Just to give you an idea of how far ahead in the calendar we really are right now. That’s how dry fuels are in early June.”
“So how quickly can this [cheatgrass] ignite then?” ABC4’s Hailey Hendricks asked.
“Very easily and again, the drier that it is, the more brown that it turns, the quicker it is going to light. It also depends on how hot it is outside,” Webb said.
As of Wednesday, 326 wildfires have been reported this year, burning 12,000 acres statewide. At this time in 2020, FFSL reported 350 wildfires.
“We’re only at the beginning of summer and we’re seeing a lot of that risk to communities and first responders,” Webb said.
Every day since May 17, Webb said there’s been at least one fire start.
“We’re just going to continue to see that as the season goes on and especially if we don’t see a serious drop in human-caused fires,” Webb said.
Amid extremely dry conditions, Utah officials created a fire sense campaign, to remind each of us to recreate responsibly and be mindful of the potential for wildfire.