SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns ignited fewer wildfires this year, saving millions of taxpayer dollars.
In a briefing before the Utah State Legislature's powerful Executive Appropriations Committee, lawmakers were informed that only 893 wildfires happened so far this year, a significant reduction from the roughly 1,200 that the state records each year.
"We're still in this drought. It’s largely due I think to a few different things, one being responsible Utah citizens doing their part to prevent wildfires," said Jason Curry, the deputy director of Utah's Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands.
The largest fire in the state this year has been the Halfway Hill Fire in Millard County, which torched over 11,000 acres. Four people are facing criminal charges in connection with that fire, accused of abandoning a campfire.
What appealed to legislative leadership was the cost savings. Because there were fewer wildfires overall, it means they didn't have to come up with more money to extinguish them. This year, the state spent roughly $18 million to fight wildfires and rehabilitate burn scars — and saved $32 million.
Legislative leadership opted to hold the remaining $32 million over in a fund for next year, just in case we see another bad wildfire season.