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Alarming human-caused wildfire trend continues in Utah

Posted at 8:32 PM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 00:19:36-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Although lightning storms across central and southern Utah sparked numerous fires over the past few days, human-caused fires continue to dominate wildfire statistics in 2020.

According to Utah Forestry, Fire and State Lands, as of August 23, nearly 196,000 acres have burned across the state. The amount of fire starts are relatively comparable to 2018, which is touted as Utah’s busiest fire season. Human-caused fires have amounted to 77 percent of all fires in Utah so far in 2020.

“We’re still having an all-time high of human-caused starts in Utah this year,” said Kait Webb with Utah Forestry, Fire and State Lands. “We had a very busy year during 2018 — there were a lot of fires and some very memorable large fires, so it was a very busy season. And this year so far, we’re about comparable, just behind on total starts compared to 2018 but again we’re still well ahead with human-caused starts as a total.”

The U.S. Forest Service Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest has also shared an alarming statistic regarding the amount of abandoned campfires discovered in the forest so far this year.

An estimated 275-300 abandoned campfires have been located by Forest Service personnel, including the Tony Grove Fire which started late last week.

“As of lately, we just continue to see a high number of roadside starts — so equipment-related — and also campfire-related starts,” said Webb. “Often, we don’t generally hear about the abandoned campfires that don’t turn into a fire. There has been a high number of those.”

This year has also brought record-setting temperatures along with extremely dry conditions across the Great Basin.

“The dry spring, those conditions continued into the summer. We’ve had a lot of very windy days, so fuels are very dry, and it’s been a very active fire season when we do get those starts,” said Webb. “In order for fire season to close out in any sort of manner, we need precipitation then cooler temperatures and increased humidity.”