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Utah seeing fewer human caused wildfires despite extreme fire danger

Posted at 6:17 PM, Jul 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-28 20:17:43-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah firefighters have responded to more than 100 fewer wildfire starts this year compared to 2020.

As of July 25, there had been 732 Utah wildfire starts in 2021 compared to 867 in 2020, according to the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands (FFSL).

It is surprising considering the extreme fire danger and historic drought Utah has been experiencing this year. It proves something, however, Kait Webb, FFSL spokesperson, said, people are listening.

“We were expecting a very, very busy season. The potential was there,” she said.

It is amazing to see people heeding the high fire danger warnings, Sgt. Spencer Cannon, Utah Co. Sheriff’s Office spokesperson, said.

“You plan and prepare for worst case eventualities that we all thought would come to pass and I think we are very fortunate,” he said.

READ: Governor; fire officials urge Utahns to use ‘Fire Sense’ to prevent wildfires

FFSL launched a new initiative this year called ‘Fire Sense,’ and it is more wide-reaching than ever before, Webb said.

“From driving down the road, to on social media, digital advertisements, websites. A huge element we are also engaged in this year is partnerships,” she said of where people will see the campaign.

READ: As extreme fire danger grows across Utah, more restrictions are put in place

The Fourth of July and Pioneer Day holidays historically result in a large number of human caused wildfire starts in Utah, Webb said. With help of the new education campaign, and fireworks being banned in many places across the state, Utah set a record low for human caused fire starts during the week of Pioneer Day.

For the week of July 19 to 25, there were 13 human caused wild fire starts, compared to 52 in 2020, 37 in 2019 and the 10 year average of 38, according to FFSL.

For the week of June 28 to July 4, there were 46 human caused wild fire starts, compared to 88 in 2020, 69 in 2019 and the 10 year average of 61, according to FFSL.

This is a positive trend, but fire season is not over, Webb reminds the public.

“We still have a long way to go, we are by no means there and perfect yet,” she said.

The education campaign is not without limitations, Webb said. It is always a challenge to make sure the message is delivered to the right audience. About 70 percent of Utah wildfires are human caused, according to FFSL.

“It is because people just don’t know the proper safety measures, they don’t know the fire sense practices they should be practicing,” Webb said.

There is always the fear people will begin to get complacent, Webb said.

“It is a lot easier when we are having a lot of large fires and drought concerns and high fire potential for people to tap into their fire sense,” she said.