Fire restrictions added in 3 Utah counties ahead of Pioneer Day weekend

Jul 21, 2023, 11:06 AM | Updated: 2:43 pm

flames and smoke at water of flaming gorge...

The lighting-caused fire near Flaming Gorge forced campground evacuations on July 18, 2023. (Utah Fire Info)

(Utah Fire Info)

SALT LAKE CITY — New fire restrictions are now in place within Cache, Box Elder and Weber counties because of “current and forecasted weather conditions coupled with the extremely dry vegetation” in northern Utah.

RELATED: More firewatch info

Utah state forester Jamie Barnes announced Stage I fire restrictions for all unincorporated private and state lands in the three counties, which went into effect Friday morning. The order states:

    • No open fires are allowed in the affected areas, except for fires within established public campgrounds or picnic areas, as well as permanent fire pits at private homes where running water is available.
    • Smoking is only permitted within an enclosed vehicle, trailer, building, developed recreation site or in areas away from dry vegetation.
    • No discharging or using fireworks, tracer ammunition or other pyrotechnic devices including exploding targets.
    • No cutting, welding or grinding metal in areas near dry vegetation.
    • Motorcycles, chainsaws, all-terrain vehicle, or any other items with small internal combustion engines cannot be used in affected areas unless with an approved and working spark arrestor.

The state issued a similar order for southwest Utah earlier this month, while the Bureau of Land Management issued fire-related bans in its West Desert district late last month.

A letter announcing the new fire restrictions notes that “vehicle fire starts” are on the rise as “fire activity intensifies” in northern Utah’s lower elevations, as the vegetation that grew from the robust moisture begins to dry out in the summer heat.

“This is primarily due to the healthy growth of cheatgrass, which has benefited from the additional moisture received this year,” the order notes. “As the lighter vegetation dries out in the summer heat, it increases the risk of fire and makes it easier to ignite.”

This year’s fire season is off to a slower start than in recent years because of the winter and spring precipitation.

There have been a little more than 300 fires started in Utah this year, which have burned about 3,400 acres, according to the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. That’s compared to 555 fire starts and 24,400 acres burned at the same point last year. And in 2021, there were 648 fires burning nearly 60,000 acres heading into the Pioneer Day holiday.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox told KSL.com earlier this week that risk is beginning to change as Utah sees less precipitation. He said he’s hopeful people will make good decisions while recreating during the holiday weekend, especially as extreme heat returns to the state.

That includes when and where to launch fireworks, which are legal from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday through Tuesday, and up until midnight on the Monday holiday.

“We know that the fire danger is increasing,” the governor said. “This is a very busy weekend with fireworks and everything else, so just be smart, be cautious, make sure you’re following the rules and (not) lighting off fireworks where you shouldn’t be.”

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Fire restrictions added in 3 Utah counties ahead of Pioneer Day weekend