Utah walking on ashes

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    BY ROB ROGERS

    Fires burn, and the tourists keep coming.

    Utah, over the course of the summer, saw wild fires burn out of control like the rest of the west, but nothing to the extent of Montana or Idaho.

    “We’ve had a lot of devastating fires this season,” said Teresa Rigby, a fire prevention officer for the Utah Bureau of Land Management.

    However, she said, Utah’s headed out of its fire season while the northern Rockies states are right in the middle of theirs.

    Utah has seen about 4,320 acres burn this summer across the state compared to 655,588 acres in Idaho and 627,757 acres in Montana.

    Rigby said most fires had not burnt things down. There was no loss of human life, and the firefighters have been able to get on top of the fires, she said.

    Because Utah is in the middle of a drought, there is still a chance for more new fires and flare-ups of the existing ones.

    “We’re at the mercy of the weather,” Rigby said.

    Utah has also had no closures of facilities or parks because of the fires, she said.

    In fact, because of the severity of the fires in the surrounding states, Utah has seen some tourists it wouldn’t have normally have seen.

    “We’ve been OK,” said Tracie Cayford from Utah Division of Travel Development.

    Because many tourists come to Utah as a part of a full western states tour, the Division of Travel Development has diverted people to attractions in Southern Utah instead of simply continuing on to Idaho or Montana, Cayford said.

    However, some tourists as well as residents are being warned by the Bureau of Land Management to take it easy as they go camping and hunting.

    Off-roading and four-wheeling can be dangerous because a hot exhaust pipe and mufflers, fires can easily spark off, Rigby said.

    In fact, that’s been the greatest cause of wildfires this season, she said.

    The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has made a number of restrictions on hunters for the fall hunts. They have yet to cancel any hunts.

    But if anything, the fires may make the hunting seasons a little more profitable.

    A lot of cover has been burnt away, Rigby said. It will not be as easy for wildlife to hide.

    It is the aftermath of wildfires that kills the wildlife, Rigby said.

    Most animals can easily get out of the way of a fire. It’s the lack of vegetation and habitat after a major fire that kills off wild animals, she said.

    There are only three large fires left burning in Utah, and the biggest of the three is 75 percent contained.

    The fire, burning nine miles west of Grantsville, Tooele County, came within three-quarters of a mile from an explosives shed last week, Rigby said.

    There were two sheds, Rigby said, one used to house dynamite, the other used for fireworks.

    “We were more worried about the fireworks than the dynamite,” she said.

    Fireworks can go off with the smallest spark.

    With dynamite, there has to be a blast cap, she said.

    “Dynamite actually burns really well,” Rigby said.

    The fireworks shed turned out to be empty, and the wildfire never reached the dynamite.

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