SALT LAKE CITY – This week begins the busiest season for camping and outdoor recreation, and U.S. Forest Service officials, The Northern Utah Interagency Fire Center (NUIFC) and Governor Spencer Cox are concerned about wildfires this year.
Jennefer Parker, the Logan District Ranger for the U.S. Forest Service, expressed her concern about the dry conditions early in the outdoor recreation season.
“This is not the year to be carless with fire. If it gets started with any wind at all it could be devastating,” she said. “It is important for everyone to make sure their fire is entirely extinguished and cool to the touch.”
She said if a fire got started in the front canyons with the early morning and late afternoon winds it would be hard to stop as dry as it is. Parker also urged people with firearms to be responsible when target shooting,
Kaitlyn Webb, spokesman for the NUIFC located in Draper, said this could be the most challenging wildfire season in Utah history.
The NUIFC is a joint dispatch center that cooperates the fire-fighting efforts of the Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, and the State of Utah Forestry Fire and State Lands. They are responsible for dispatching and coordination of wildfires and incidents for approximately 15 million acres in the northern part of the state.
“The state is well above the average for wildfires and acres burned for this time of year compared to previous years,” she said. “Last year Utah set a record for human-caused wildfires, 1,143 out of 1,482 total. We are on track to break that record again if we don’t see a significant change in public behavior.”
Governor Cox spoke with the interagency fire leadership, and together they are urging everyone in Utah this summer to change their behaviors when outside to prevent wildfires.
The State of Utah is launching “Fire Sense”, a public service campaign designed to educate the public to make fire sense decisions that will drive down the number of human-caused wildfires.
One-hundred percent of the state is in drought, with 90 percent of the state in extreme drought.
Officials are asking the public to take more precautions when in the outdoors; all but eight wildfires out of 227 have been human caused so far this year.
“More human-caused wildfires inevitably lead to more threats to lives and property. Given Utah’s current drought conditions, it’s more important than ever this fire season to be cautious with fire and with anything that can cause fire,” said Utah Department of Natural Resources Executive director Brian Steed. “We absolutely can’t afford to continue this trend of increasing human-caused wildfires that we have seen in the state over the last few years.”
State leaders are asking the public to do the following in an effort to decrease potential wildfires this year:
- Equipment: Whether you are working, recreating or traveling, be aware that any equipment can cause a fire. Be mindful of your surroundings. Maintenance of tires, brakes and exhaust is a simple and crucial preventative measure. Never park on or drive over dry vegetation. Ensure that chains are not dragging from vehicles.
- Campfires: Keep fires a manageable size. Never leave a fire unattended. Have adequate water available and extinguish campfires using the Drown, Stir, and Feel method.
- Debris burning: Be aware of current and predicted weather and fuel conditions; don’t burn on windy days. Make the proper notifications and be prepared to suppress the fire if needed.
- Target shooting: Be aware of current weather and fuel conditions, especially Red Flag Warnings. Use safe ammunition and targets and find an appropriate backdrop void of rocks and vegetation. Have a shovel and water or a fire extinguisher with you. Only shoot in areas where legally allowed.
- Exploding targets: Only use in legal areas, exploding targets aren’t allowed on most public lands (never on Bureau of Land Management lands). Never use near dry vegetation.
- Fireworks: Only use during legal dates and in legally allowed areas. Fireworks are prohibited on all public lands.
- Be aware of current conditions and act accordingly: Check for fire restrictions in Salt Lake, Summit, Wasatch and Utah Counties.