Extreme fire season for Utah


    By Robin Lamb

    The grass has grown knee high in the foothills around Provo, bringing enjoyment to hikers, but worries for Wasatch area fire officials who are preparing for extreme fire conditions this year.

    Despite a large snow pack and runoff season, State Fire Marshals office, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service have declared Utah?s fire hazard outlook for the year as high to extreme.

    Ed Scott, administrative captain in the Provo City Fire Department, recently attended a quarterly leadership meeting for emergency managers in Utah, where that?s exactly what he heard.

    The water helped the grass grow, he said, and now when the temperatures rise, and the humidity falls the grass becomes perfect fuel for wildfires.

    Because of this, many areas in the state are taking precautions to prevent fires.

    Provo City is taking safety measures as the Fourth of July approaches, Scott said. The city has designated certain areas as off limits to fireworks from June 30 through July 27. He said officials intend to enforce the restrictions and charge the maximum fines allowed or confiscate the fireworks if necessary.

    Southern Utah has already seen its first several fires. Dave Boyd from the Bureau of Land Management said the Red Fire, which was started Wednesday morning by a lightning strike, burned about 7,400 acres near St. George.

    The fire, burning about 25 miles northwest of town, was 40 percent contained, Boyd said Thursday.

    According to the Associated Press, no structures were immediately threatened, and the closest building was a mile from the fire.

    The fire remained active on its eastern border, where firefighters were concentrating efforts, reports stated. If they are successful, “it looks like we could have the fire contained today,” he said.

    ?Pretty much, every lightning strike is starting a little fire,? he said.

    But that is not the only fire hazard. Cigarettes thrown from cars are suspected to have caused several freeway fires, chainsaws and ATV?s without spark arresters and ?even just parking your vehicle off road, the heat from it, can start a fire.?

    Boyd said, in Washington County, people are only allowed to have fires in the fire rings of developed campgrounds.

    The National Weather Service sponsors a National Lightning Awareness Week, which Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has decided to support, making June 19-25 Lightning Awareness Week in Utah.

    Mike Seaman, senior forecaster for the weather service, said during the week sponsors will try to generate public awareness so people will be more conscious of the dangers that lightning can bring, including spot fires.

    Other things residents can do to decrease the risk of starting wildfires are to be careful and obey all restrictions when using fireworks, disposing of ashes appropriately when barbecuing and understanding how to put campfires out, where to have them and making sure they are always tended.

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