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Utah fire crews bracing for potentially busy weekend amid high wildfire danger

Posted at 10:35 PM, Jun 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-11 00:43:24-04

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah — Officials with the Bureau of Land Management in Utah are watching the weather and letting their crews know this weekend could bring wildfire trouble.

“Utah has some of the best firefighters in the country," said BLM Utah Deputy State Fire Management Officer Gary Bishop. “I may be a little biased, but I'll stand by that.”

“Those firefighters are going to come to work this morning. They're going to come to work tomorrow morning,” he added. “They're going over their equipment, make sure those tires are pumped up, make sure the tanks are full of water and everything's running perfectly.”

Wind and 100+ degree temperatures in some parts of the state this weekend have prompted fire warnings, and restrictions are also already in effect for southern Utah.

Because of that, several different agencies have called in more resources, including on the aerial side.

“We brought in some extra lead planes and retardant planes. We have some extra helicopters, and we just brought in some smoke jumpers this afternoon,” Bishop said.

These resources will be stationed in Cedar City to be able to deploy anywhere they are needed.

The main area of concern for fires is in southern Utah, but the Wasatch Front will also be getting plenty of heat and wind ahead of a storm rolling through early next week.

“We have increased our capacity on the south half of the state,” Bishop said. “ [But] those winds are not going to hold themselves to southern Utah — they're going to make their way up onto the Wasatch Front.”

Different agencies around the state cooperate and share their resources with each other. Some have different strengths and equipment, so regardless of whose land or jurisdiction it is, the closest crew responds.

That exact scenario happened Thursday with the Dalton Wash Fire.

Bishop said both local and state agencies responded to BLM land, and a National Park Service incident commander even took control at one point.

“it didn't matter who owned the resources or what agency they worked for," Bishop said. “When they get out to the fire line, they are all the same.”

The Dalton Wash Fire is estimated at 350 acres with 30 percent containment.

“Crews are making really good progress," said Nick Howell with the BLM, who is serving as the public information officer for the fire. "However, it is hot and dry, so obviously that's a huge challenge."

These conditions have fire officials worried about this fire or the next one.

“Anything that can generate heat or cause a spark can definitely start a wildfire," Howell said.

While there are other potential causes, the major concerns are with human-caused fires. These can be started by things like trailers dragging chains, vehicle failures and runaway campfires.

“A lot of it really depends on how the public treats our public lands,” Bishop said. “We need to be super careful... as we're driving the roads — we're not dragging chains, we're not locking up brakes and throwing sparks into the grass."