WILDFIRE

Several fires break out as Utah sees first Red Flag warning of the year

Apr 5, 2021, 10:49 AM | Updated: 10:50 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is under its first red flag warning of the year. The warning comes earlier than usual and indicates it could be a very busy summer for wildfires. 

“It’s super dry and we’re starting off really dry after what was an underperforming winter for both rain and snow. It’s a bad thing really no matter what, it’s not good for anything really to be that dry,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Jon Wilson said.

Over Easter weekend a number of wildfires broke out across the state. 

One of the largest was in Tooele County where the human-caused Little Pass fire broke out and quickly expanded to consume 1,300 acres. On Monday, crews estimated it was around 70% contained.

Two other blazes were also sparked in Duchesne County where several acres were burned near the interstate, and in Logan where a grass fire broke out.

Dry, windy, and warm

Right now, 90% of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought conditions which is the worst category possible.

Gov. Cox declares Utah’s drought a state of emergency

That combined with warmer than average temperatures, and a windy day is something that could lead to critical fire weather conditions. 

On Sunday, 16 NWS stations tied or exceeded record high temperatures. 

Forecasters say that the record temperatures are on their way out Monday night, but with low humidity and gusty winds the NWS said fire conditions will still be high.

 

“It’s obviously dry outside, but on top of that, we’re expecting winds to pick up [Monday], and also, the relative humidity will be very low. With those conditions, any fire that gets going can really get out of control,” said Wilson.

If Utah’s drought continues or gets worse, Wilson said the chance for more fires also gets worse. 

“It’s a bad thing really no matter what. It’s not good for anything to be that dry.”

Spark Change

Last year, more than 1,200 wildfires in Utah were human-caused. 

Utah’s Wildfire prevention program lines out a number of prevention strategies to help reduce the risk for manmade wildfires.

  • Only start a campfire in an approved fire pit, or an area cleared of all vegetation.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Always make sure your fire is completely doused with water and smothered with dirt before leaving.
  • Don’t start a fire on a windy day.
  • Keep lighters and matches out of the reach of children.
  • Don’t burn yard waste or debris without checking with your local fire department.
  • When lighting fireworks, have a fire extinguisher handy; have a bucket of water or garden hose available to wet down the surrounding vegetation.
  • Don’t park a hot car or other machines in dry grass.
  • Tractors, off-road vehicles and equipment, such as chainsaws, must have spark arrestors.
  • Secure tow chains to ensure they don’t drag, causing sparks and fire risk.
  • When target shooting, choose a backstop that is free of rocks and dry grass.
  • Remember the complete impact of wildfire when playing, working or traveling in Utah.

How do wildfires get their names?

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Several fires break out as Utah sees first Red Flag warning of the year