Crews already prepping, as dry conditions may mean early start to wildfire season in Utah

Posted at 8:54 PM, Apr 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-20 09:04:20-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Despite last week's rain and snow, it's still likely to be a very dry summer in Utah.

Officially on paper, June 1 is the beginning of wildfire season. However, the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands said in their minds the fire season is already here.

"The fires that we have seen so far this year have been faster growing, more difficult to contain, so all things being equal we could be looking at a lot more of that," said Jason Curry, spokesperson for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

Dozens of people spent Sunday hiking Holbrook Canyon in Bountiful. Many of them said they can't remember the vegetation being so brown.

"Dead vegetation lights up so fast, all around, one spark and it all goes up," said Bryce Pickett of Bountiful. "The fact that it's getting dryer and dryer and we do live in a highly vegetated area, it is pretty worrisome."

The Utah Division of Forestry said usually April is when they just begin to hire and train crews for wild fires. This year, that whole process had to be sped up by months.

The BLM has even hired 10 to 15 percent more seasonal firefighters in preparation of the fire season. The state said they will probably have to cancel many of their prescribed burns, as the risk is just too great.

"Where there is just a small spark, some small ember from a fire gets out and it spreads quickly and those dry fuels spread to medium and heavy, and then you have a large catastrophic fire," Curry said.

The state said wild fires are most often started due to careless people or heavy winds.

"It's wind and fuel moisture that typically drive fire behavior more than any other factors, so people need to be heads-up, watching out more carefully--especially on those days," Curry said.

People who live near these vulnerable high vegetation areas said they want to be the firefighters' biggest allies.

"We are pretty proactive, and we love that the firefighters are ready to go and we try to help by not causing anything while we're out there and not bring any fire or start any fire," said Luncia Weston of Bountiful.

The state said the biggest help they can receive is from Mother Nature.

"Weather is ultimately the deciding factor, we could experience another round of storms similar to what we had last year that basically shuts fire season down," Curry said.

Curry said we can also expect to see some restrictions on camp fires in certain areas of the state, probably within the next month or so.