WILDFIRE

2021 Utah fire season: hundreds fewer human-caused fires than in 2020

Jan 24, 2022, 6:43 PM
FILE: A fire restriction sign sits along the road in Rush Valley as a wildfire burns on Victory Mou...
FILE: A fire restriction sign sits along the road in Rush Valley as a wildfire burns on Victory Mountain in Morgan Canyon in Tooele County on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. The fire started after a plane crash. Photo credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Despite record drought conditions, there were far fewer human-caused wildfires in 2021 than there were in the previous year. That’s according to new information contained in the 2021 Utah Wildfire Annual Report released on Monday.

Another significant statistic cited in the new report showed that 93% of wildfires in Utah last year did not grow to be larger than 10 acres. 

Still, the 2021 Utah fire season started early

The beginning of the 2021 fire season in Utah didn’t foretell the good news contained in the new report. Hot and dry conditions ushered fire season in two weeks earlier than normal.

“We experienced fire large fires before the end of June,” said Director of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands, Jamie Barnes. Those included the East Canyon, Bear, Flatt, and Bennion Creek fires.

After June 2021, Utah’s fire season started to settle down Barnes said in the report. This led to an overall reduction, by 62%, in human-caused fire starts. Barnes credits interagency prevention efforts. This included a statewide prevention campaign and fire restrictions, for lessening human-caused fire starts.

The numbers are impressive for another reason. For much of the summer, nearly 100% of the state of Utah was considered to be in drought conditions with 90% of the state considered to be in extreme drought conditions. By mid-July 2021, Barnes reported that critically dry fuels covered nearly the entire Great Basin.

Indeed with 351 fires reported in July of 2021, it was the most active month for wildfires in Utah in 2021.

Lone Peak Conservation Center

While much of the fire news for Utah in 2021 was relatively good news, the same cannot be said for Utah’s neighboring states. Huge fires burned in California, Oregon, and Washington in 2021.  California’s Caldor and Monument Fires burned nearly a quarter-million acres each. However, it was the Dixie Fire that burned nearly 1 million acres in July.

Utah’s wildfire management program, the Lone Peak Conservation Center, houses wildfire suppression resources that are used across the state and, when needed, across the nation. This year, LPCC crews and resources worked 23 in-state and 91 out-of-state fire assignments.

As Utah’s 2022 wildfire season nears, Barnes said her agency will continue to focus on fire prevention and preparedness.

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2021 Utah fire season: hundreds fewer human-caused fires than in 2020