Over half of Utah wildfires caused by humans, state fire officials say

Jul 18, 2023, 3:00 PM

a wildfire on a mountain...

A wildfire broke out Monday afternoon near Flaming Gorge Reservoir, causing the evacuation of the Mustang Campground. (Utah Fire Info)

(Utah Fire Info)

SALT LAKE CITY — According to data from state fire authorities, nearly 55% of this season’s fires have been human-caused. State fire officials said vehicles are to blame for many of them while about seven dozen are labeled as having an unknown or undetermined cause.

Wildfire Public Information Officer Kayli Guild told KSL NewsRadio that faulty cars can create sparks easily. 

“Those include anything roadside start,” she said. “Dragging chains, blown tires, even catalytic converters again this year. Maintenance on your vehicles is super important.”

Guild gave the example of witnessing a trailer coming disconnected from a truck driving on I-15. The security chains dragged along the concrete, creating sparks.

She said she believed that the driver didn’t have the correct ball hitch size for his trailer. It’s that kind of maintenance and vehicle checking Guild wants drivers to do. 

“If that would have happened anywhere else…like rural Utah…we could have seen issues,” she said.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson tweeted Tuesday, asking Utahns to use common sense to avoid human-caused fires.

City problems

Utah Fire Info only manages fires that start in Utah’s wildlands. Cities have their own issues with firework starts — mostly due to fireworks.

A spokesman for North Tooele Fire Department, Jon Smith, said he sees a lot of fires start from people being negligent.

“Somebody not realizing that they’ve left a campfire unattended, somebody dragging a chain,” Smith said. He also cited target shooting — and specifically using targets that explode, not using a good backdrop, or using tracer rounds.

He also said fireworks bring them a lot of headaches. 

“We love fireworks just like everybody else but we want to make sure we’re using them responsibly and not in areas that have been restricted by the city, county, or state,” Smith said.

Smith said they operate with the motto: the best way to fight a fire is to prevent a fire.

Stay up-to-date during fire season with KSL NewsRadio

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Over half of Utah wildfires caused by humans, state fire officials say