SALT LAKE CITY – If you think 2020 has been the worst year ever, fire officials in Utah would say they agree with you. They’re repeating their warnings to everyone urging everyone to be especially careful when lighting fires or setting off fireworks over the Fourth of July weekend.
Just since January 1, there have been over 530 wildfires across the state. Kait Webb with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands says over 430 of those were caused by people and could have been avoided.
“This season, we’ve seen an all-time high of human-caused fires,” she says.
Compare that to 2019, when we had fewer than 200 total wildfires by this time of year. In 2018, which was the previous record year, Webb says there were only 405 total fires by the beginning of July.
The largest blaze is the Canal Fire five miles north of Oak City. Officials say this particular blaze was caused by lightning and it has blacked over 76 thousand acres. The strong winds and the dry fuels made it so intense, crews that were fighting it directly on the southeast edge had to fall back to a fire break line created by bulldozers.
Crews are getting the upper hand on the Knolls Fire near Saratoga Springs, the Powerline Fire near Nephi and the Rock Path Fire in Millard County.
The high temperatures in southern Utah have made conditions slightly worse than in the northern half of the state.
Webb says, “Down in the southern part of the state, there is higher fire potential just because it has been warmer down there and drier down there sooner. So, their vegetation is more dry and more susceptible to ignition.”
However, that “higher than normal” designation is creeping north.
“As we move into July, that ‘high potential’ is going to start moving up to the northern part of the state,” Webb says.
The higher elevation is faring somewhat better than lower elevations when it comes to fire potential, but Webb says people still need to take extreme precautions if they plan to light any campfires.
“A lot of the large fires we’ve been having and the majority of the starts that we’ve been having are in the lower elevations with those lighter flash fuels that dry out quicker,” she says.
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