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Despite wet spring, fire experts say wildfire potential is already here

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SALT LAKE COUNTY – Fireworks stands will be open for business this week, and firefighters say it’s an incredibly frustrating time of year for them.  They say, every year, people light them when they’re not supposed to, and many people underestimate the potential for wildfires.

We just had a really wet spring, so, that’s good for Utah’s potential wildfire picture, right?  Fire experts say yes, and no.  In one way, there’s lot of moisture in the vegetation, so it’s less likely to burn, for now.  However, the rain made cheat grass and other light fuels grow extremely high.

Utah Fire Marshal Coy Porter says, “With all the moisture we have in there, you can see the mountains and how green they are.  Some of these grasses and light fuels are four feet tall now.”

Porter says it will only take a few weeks of hot weather to make those grasses very dangerous.

“As we continue through July and into the 24th of July holiday, those fuels are going to be tinder dry and that’s when we’re going to run into trouble,” he says.

Other experts say the wildfire season has already begun, especially in southern Utah.

Jason Curry with the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands says, “Of the 130 fires we’ve seen so far this year, not many of them have grown to be very big.  We’re definitely at a crossroads and things are starting to dry out.”  He adds, “In the central part of the state, we had a 500 acre fire.  I think people are really in a bit of a state of complacency.  They see green and they think there’s no real fire danger.”