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Experts offer safety tips as wildfire season approaches

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Posted at 7:37 PM, Jun 03, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-04 00:17:31-04

ST. GEORGE – June 1 marked the official start of wildfire season in Utah, and state fire officials are urging residents to be prepared for a busy season.

There have already been two small wildfires in Southern Utah, and local fire managers said conditions are ripe for an average to busy wildfire season.

“For the next several months it’s going to be critical that people be mindful of their activities,” said Mike Melton, State of Utah Area Fire Management officer.

In 2012 there were 1,453 wildfires reported by the state’s fire tracking website. Those fires burned through close to 500,000 acres of land. Washington County Fire Warden Adam Heyder said the key to bringing those numbers down this year is taking offensive action.

“I think the big part’s education,” Heyder said. “Know where you’re going, be safe with even a lot of the day to day stuff. A lot of our human caused fires are from equipment failures— Cutting, grinding, welding. That kind of thing.”

Heyder and Melton said some of the top things homeowners can do to get their properties ready for wildfire season are:

  • Create defensible space around your home. Make sure plants and trees are not close enough to spark your house on fire.
  • Check your roof. Clear out gutters and remove limbs. Often the roof is where embers from nearby fires can land and spark.
  • Avoid activities that could cause a spark. Even parking on dry grass or on the side of the road could inadvertently spark a wildfire.
  • Have an emergency plan and practice it. In the event there is a wildfire in your area, know how you’re going to get out.

“If a wildfire does occur, It’s something they know, they’ve practiced,” Heyder said. “And they can get their important belongings in their vehicle and get out of the area in a hurry.”

Melton said the state has already sent fire crews to help with wildfires in California. And when those fires spark in neighboring states, Utah isn’t far behind.

Click here for a full list of things homeowners can do to get their properties prepared for wildfire season