Human-caused wildfires on average are fewer than the fires caused by lightning in Utah. This year, however, human-caused fires have exceeded lightning fires.
“Over 800 to 1,000 wildfires is probably an average each summer,” Russ Oaks, spokesperson for the West Desert District said. “Usually for Utah, the majority are caused by lightning, with 70 percent being lightning and 30 percent being human.”
A human-caused fire caused by something unnatural can range from power lines to target shooting.
So far this year, Utah has had 560 wildfires. Of these fires, 309 have been human-caused and only 251 due to lightning, Oaks said.
Even considering this, Utah is ranking well compared with neighboring states.
“This year our fire season has been below average,” Oaks said. “We tend to have less than other states in the West, but this year especially.”
Bruce Roundy is a range ecologist who has taught at BYU for 21 years. Roundy recently attended a wildlife meeting for the Western states where wildfires were discussed in detail.
“There were a lot of state directors of wildlife from the Western states at that meeting, and Utah was held up as an example,” Roundy said. “It was because the Division of Wildlife here, many of which are past BYU students, work with the Bureau of Land Management people, some of which are past BYU students, and forest service people who do treatments that benefit the land, reduce fire, benefit wildlife and benefit grazing. They really work well together here, and it’s really the envy of most of the other states. There’s no other state that does it this well.”
Ryley McBride has been a firefighter with the Provo Fire Department for three years but has more than 15 years of experience as a firefighter.
“During the summertime, on our shift, we probably have one fire every 48 hours in the city,” McBride said. “Ninety percent of human-caused fires, I would say, are preventable. It’s frustrating when the fires are human-caused.”
“We can save a lot of homes if people are proactive in doing what these websites suggest,” McBride said. “It doesn’t take much, just one wind gust, to blow an ember out and start a fire.”
Because of this, Oaks suggested that people always be prepared to extinguish a fire.
“Just be prepared to put the campfire out,” Oaks said. “Have water, a shovel and a fire extinguisher with you. And there’s good information on the signs. If people found the time to read them it could actually prevent fires.”
Oaks also recommends that people be especially careful when target shooting. Knowing the weather and being careful with ammo can prevent fires caused by target shooting, Oaks said.
“It’s hard to live with wildfire,” Roundy said. “We do the best we can.”