Wildfire season could start slow but pick up, warn state fire leaders

Jun 5, 2023, 5:28 PM | Updated: 7:14 pm


A wildfire in southwestern Utah destroyed a vacation home and six outbuildings and threatened an additional 30 homes before being contained. (PHOTO: Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands)

(PHOTO: Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands)

NORTH SALT LAKE — Don’t get complacent with all the water we’ve had. Utah’s leaders and state fire officials are warning that wildfire season could be deceptively active.

“There is more vegetation to burn,” said Gov. Spencer Cox, who joined fire officials and forecasters to remind Utahns to use their “fire sense.”

“There is a heightened fire danger than even what we’ve seen in the past,” Cox said.

State fire forecasters say the hillsides and foothills could be extra dangerous despite the wet weather and record snowpack.

Slow start, active end

Basil Newmerzhycky, the lead meteorologist with Predictive Services for the Great Basin Coordination Center, said June’s fire danger will start the summer off with low wildfire risk.

“But it should not lead to complacency because that excess fuel in the lower and mid-elevations is what we’re especially worried about this season,” he said.

As we get into July, Newmerzhycky said the risk will start to pick up, despite the actual prediction for wildfire season being “average.”

“Normal in July can be pretty active,” he said, adding it might feel more active because there is have low risk in June.

Adding to the risk in the latter half of the summer, Newmerzhycky said, is that an El Nino pattern keeps us cool and cloudy, meaning the monsoon season may be delayed. That means not as much cooling rain in late July and August.

“Things could work backwards this season,” Newmerzhycky said. 

We could see fire season really picking up — especially these flashy fires and lighter feuls– that is our big concern for August.

He also warned that fires in the Pacific Northwest could bring to Utah multiple days, maybe weeks of smoky, unhealthy air. 

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Wildfire season could start slow but pick up, warn state fire leaders