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BLM experts predict the 2022 fire season in Utah is about a month away

May 10, 2022, 6:23 AM | Updated: 4:18 pm
utah fire season...
Johnny Trujillo, 53, talks about battling the blaze that destroyed both his sister's home and his truck in the evacuation area near Mora, N.M., on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, where firefighters have been battling the Hermit's Peak and Calf Canyon fire for weeks. Many residents have resisted the evacuation orders opting to stay and protect their homes to face nature's fury. Weather conditions described as potentially historic are on tap for New Mexico on Saturday, May 7 and over the next several days as the largest fire burning in the U.S. chews through more tinder-dry mountainsides. (Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP)
(Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — While not the case yet in Utah, fire season has begun in neighboring states. Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona are all in firefighting mode. Across the country, 20 million Americans are facing red flag warnings for fire.

“Fortunately for Utah we are just north of that. Typically Arizona and New Mexico are about a month to a month and a half ahead of us,” said Basil Newmerzhycky with the Bureau of Land Management Predictive Services.

A red flag warning is issued by the National Weather Service. It is a short-term warning for a critical weather event, usually wind gusts over 30 mph with dry fuels or dry lightning that could pose a threat for rapid-fire growth.

Right now in New Mexico, 308 square miles have been burned by wildfire and 170 homes have been lost. This particular fire, Newmerzhycky said, is concerning.

“That is quite worrisome because in the higher elevations of Southern Utah where we have similar drought-like conditions and low snowpack and heavier fuels – we’re talking about the mountains outside of Cedar City – the worry is that when we do reach our dry pattern in early June, we could see conditions not too different from that.”

Is the rain helping any?

Utahns started the week with rain and in some cases, snow — which is good news, Newmerzhycky said.

“That’s helping us in the northern half of the state. These cooler, showery systems will be clipping mostly the northern areas.

“They won’t bring that much precipitation to the South,’ he said, “but what they will bring are cooler temperatures and higher humidity which tend to be a short-term mitigator of fire activity.”

When Newmerzhycky looks ahead to the fire season here in Utah, he predicts that firefighters will be busy.

“We do expect above normal fire potential for southwestern Utah by the end of May and spreading across much of southern Utah through the month of June.”

The good news for Utah, he said, is the potential for an active monsoon season in July.

“Which would take the edge off fire activity across the southern half of the state. At that point, we expect above-normal fire activity across much of northern and northeastern Utah.”

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BLM experts predict the 2022 fire season in Utah is about a month away