Drought conditions increase likelihood of a wildfire in winter

Dec 31, 2021, 4:37 PM
FILE - Officials say due to drought conditions Utah could see a fire similar to what Colorado is ex...
FILE - Officials say due to drought conditions Utah could see a fire similar to what Colorado is experiencing. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)
(Elias Funez/The Union via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY, UT — Fire experts say because of the continuing drought conditions in Utah, a wildfire like the one seen yesterday in Colorado is possible in Utah.

Wildfires in winter months are becoming more common across the West. The Deputy Director at Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, Jason Curry, says there is no longer a traditional fire season that starts in the summer and ends in early fall. He says at the department they call it a “fire year.”

“On paper, the fire season starts June 1 and goes through October 30. And we’re getting fires before and after that every year,” he said.

He said Utah is safe right now from a big wildfire because of the snow covering most of the state. But if temperatures get warmer and the snow melts, he said a fire like the one seen in Colorado could happen. 

National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Struthwolf says the drought conditions in Utah increase the likelihood of a wildfire. Currently, 70% of the state is experiencing extreme drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. 

“The trend has been, for over 20 years or so, that we’re seeing more and more drought years than normal years. Until that changes, we’re setting ourselves up for fires that go well into the fall and winter,” Struthwolf said. 

Struthwolf said 100 miles per hour winds are more common in Boulder County, where the fire happened, than in Utah. But he said it’s still possible.

“We can get those strong winds under easterly flow here along the Wasatch Front and we’ve had some cases where we’ve had 75 to 100 miles per hour winds. But typically it’s mid-winter when we get those situations,” he said. 

Curry said if a wildfire happened in Utah during the winter, it would be difficult because most wildland firefighters are seasonal workers and the special equipment used to fight wildfires is put away for the winter. Curry said this is the case for most states.

“We don’t have a lot of wildfire capability and capacity in the winter months,” Curry said. “Aviation resources are pretty much non-existent and don’t have fire crews that are staffed.”

Curry said the aircrafts Utah uses to fight wildfires are usually provided through federal contracts and those contracts are seasonal, meaning they end in late summer/early fall. Curry said if Utah were to have a wildfire in the winter, they might have to rely on the National Guard’s helicopters to fight the fires from the air. 

Curry said most people don’t think about wildfires in the winter, but he said wildfire prevention techniques are good things to remember year round. He said most of the wildfires that happen outside of the fire season are started because someone is trying to do some type of land management and the fire gets away from them, usually because of the wind.

Drought conditions increase likelihood of a wildfire outside of the fire season


Today’s Top Stories


File photo: Soldiers from the Utah National Guard prepare to depart Roland R. Wright Air National G...
Amie Schaeffer

Utah Air National Guard Airman dies during routine deployment

An airman from the Utah National Guard passed away from undisclosed medical issues while deployed in Guam on Nov. 29.
8 hours ago
After nine months of rehab in Kanab, Utah, a formerly injured Golden Eagle has been released back i...
Curt Gresseth

Golden eagle saved from death and rehabilitated in Utah flies home

An injured golden eagle spent months rehabilitating in Kanab, Utah after an injury. It was released home in November.
8 hours ago
Gov. Cox mental health...
Mark Jackson

Utah’s Coordinated Action Plan for Water released this week

Utah’s Coordinated Action Plan for Water was released Wednesday by Gov. Spencer Cox and state agencies.
8 hours ago
Orem auto-pedestrian collision...
Mark Jones

Two people hurt in auto-pedestrian collision in Orem

Orem police are investigating an auto-pedestrian collision that sent two people to the hospital Wednesday afternoon.
1 day ago
making way for The Point, a guard tower is knocked down as part of the old state prison's demolitio...
Aimee Cobabe

As the old state prison goes down, development of The Point begins

The Point will take about two decades for developers to finish, but leaders in the project are optimistic that the planned community will be worth the wait.
1 day ago
A former American Fork soccer coach is under arrest and facing six felony counts of child sexual ab...
Hugo Rikard-Bell

Former American Fork soccer coach arrested on charges of child sexual abuse

The suspect arrested on charges of child sexual abuse was reportedly a soccer coach for the UC Strikers and Utah FC junior teams, between 2000 and 2014, according to American Fork Police.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Drought conditions increase likelihood of a wildfire in winter