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Warming weather & increased winds; Firefighters concerned with uptick in escaped burns

Posted at 10:11 PM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 00:11:57-04

Changing weather conditions have been contributing to an increase in escaped burns from landowners and farmers both in Utah and Wyoming.

“Fires have gotten away from people and we’ve had structures burn down,” said Uinta County Fire and Ambulance Chief Eric Quinney. “It seems like we’ve had more this year than normal and I think just because of the windy conditions and just that window of vulnerability in terms of, we call it the ‘pre-green up’.”

Late afternoon winds have contributed to numerous small fires in Utah County over the past few days.

“We’re seeing more and more burns in back yards, agricultural burns,” said American Fork Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Eddie Hales. “We’re seeing the higher winds coming in and that’s really affecting controlled burns can get out of control very quickly.”

In Uinta County, Wyoming, most burns are being conducted in unincorporated areas. While permits aren’t needed, it’s recommended that those planning to burn call the local 9-1-1 dispatch to give them a heads up. In Utah County and specifically American Fork, those wanting to burn are required to fill out a form for an open burn permit.

As we head into a weekend where temperatures are expected to jump, factoring in a strong wind and drying vegetation, firefighters are encouraging everyone to use their best judgment before starting to burn.

“On a lot of these days the weather’s saying watch for these winds and everything there so that’s probably just a big red flag in itself of oh, I probably shouldn’t burn today,” said Utah County Fire Battalion Chief Garrett Nielsen.

Regardless of where you are in Utah or surrounding states, it’s recommended to see what burn restrictions are in place in your specific county.

The recent increase of grass fires in Wyoming has been particularly concerning to Uinta County Fire and Ambulance given the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the COVID-19 situation, I don’t want all my firefighters getting together to fight these fires and so if we do have an outbreak within the fire department it could essentially shut down my entire fire department,” said Chief Quinney. “We just ask people to be smart we’ve had a lot of fires recently and hopefully people are understanding of our limited resources especially having to deal with COVID-19 and to only burn if necessary.”

To learn more about burn restrictions across the state of Utah click here.