WILDFIRES

Caution Urged After Preventable Human-Caused Fires Peak Early

Jul 1, 2020, 7:24 PM | Updated: 8:53 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Firefighters have already responded to more preventable, human-caused fires in Utah this early in the season than ever before. Fire managers have urged everyone to be cautious with anything that could spark a blaze, because fire danger is peaking again just in time for the holiday weekend.

It rained Tuesday, but the heat has already returned, and fire managers expect dangerous wildfire conditions to continue.

“As soon as it starts to heat back up, and dry up, that fire danger bumps back up very quickly,” said Kait Webb, prevention and fire communications coordinator for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

This past weekend, several human caused fires put people’s lives and property at risk.

“Fire danger is still extremely high across the state,” said Webb. “Fireworks, abandoned campfires, and vehicles are sparking a lot of fires.”

Officials said the Traverse Fire in Lehi that came dangerously close to homes was started by fireworks in a restricted area. Investigators believed the Knolls Fire that destroyed one home in Saratoga Springs was also human-caused.

“We are seeing far more human-caused fires than we normally do, and it’s really a mixture of a lot more people out recreating, paired with careless actions and not paying attention,” said Webb.

Fire restrictions were already in place in much of Utah, and could be expanded as the heat intensifies.

“We are far busier this time of year than we usually are,” she said.

Crews have responded to 537 fire starts already this summer. Last year at this time, it was 184 starts. Two years ago, the costliest wildfire season in Utah history, there were 450 starts at this time. This season, 82 percent of the fire starts this summer have been human caused.

“Just looking at this past weekend, we had 37 starts over the weekend, 20 of which were human caused,” said Webb.

Those fires put the public, property, and firefighters in danger.

“That was unnecessary,” she said. “It’s something we can prevent.”

Fire managers do not want firefighters or the public anywhere near this kind of blaze.

“We had really extreme fire behavior, significant fire growth,” she said. “So, all of those first responders were putting themselves in danger and a lot of those fires were human caused, and could have been prevented.”

Fireworks are not legal to shoot off until Thursday, July 2, and are legal in unrestricted areas through July 5.

Make sure you know the fire restrictions where you are for fireworks and campfires, said Webb. When winds are gusting, call off the fire and fireworks.

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Caution Urged After Preventable Human-Caused Fires Peak Early