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Outdoor activity spike 'correlated' to wildfire starts across Utah

Posted at 5:50 PM, Jun 15, 2020

UTAH — Fire crews are still working to put out fires from over the weekend after 26 total wildfires were sparked, and more than half of those were human-caused.

Jason Curry, a spokesman for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, said there is a “huge correlation” with outdoor activity increasing and the increase of human-caused fires across the state.

“There are clearly some folks that are not getting the message, not using good judgment, and this is going to lead to a disaster eventually,” said Curry.

Curry said a wildfire has been started in Utah every single day since April 18.

Eighty-three percent, or about 340 of the wildfires have been human caused in 2020.

“Even last night I had reports of people finding abandoned campfires just along the side of the road still burning,” said Curry.

Meanwhile, Patrick McCray, the general manager at Recreation Outlet, said their sales in outdoor gear have completely spiked.

“Tents, sleeping bags, coolers have just exploded this year,” said McCray. “We’re selling more in a week than we would sell in three weeks last summer.”

Most of McCray’s customers buy gear once a year, or upgrade their gear over time—but the customers filling his stores now are buying all the gear.

“Some people who grew up camping and are now getting back to their roots,” said McCray.

Being outdoors is a great way to spend time during the pandemic, said McCray, but he also doesn’t want to see Utah’s wildlife and lands destroyed.

“We are still in the pandemic, but we've still got to use our common sense,” said McCray.

Depending on the outcome of investigators, Curry said people who start a wildfire could be looking at Class B misdemeanors.

Some of things causing the dry grass to ignite include bald tires, shooting guns, exploding targets, and dragging chains across the ground.

All things, Curry said, should be avoided to prevent a wildfire.