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Wet winter leads to dry grasses and new fire restrictions in Utah

Posted at 2:49 PM, Jul 01, 2024

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Forester has elevated more parts of the state into "Stage 1 fire restrictions" in anticipation of a long holiday weekend with hot, dry conditions.

"We've seen really good water years and while we’re thankful for those water years, what we’ve seen is a real good growth of fuels," said Jamie Barnes, who is also the director of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands.

The restrictions stretch across much of northern Utah and southwestern Utah. Other portions of the state may enter into such restrictions at the request of local fire wardens. Over the weekend, firefighters were kept busy putting out fires caused by agriculture and roadside issues.

Stage 1 Fire Restrictions

"We’re seeing a higher rate of human caused fires than we’ve seen in the last three years," Barnes said.

Stage 1 Fire Restrictions apply to all unincorporated private lands and state lands. They include:

  • No open fires of any kind except within established public facilities in improved campgrounds, picnic areas.
  • No smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle, trailer or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area that is paved or free from dry vegetation.
  • No fireworks, tracer ammunition or other pyrotechnic devices including exploding targets.
  • No cutting, welding or grinding metal in areas of dry vegetation.
  • No operating a motorcycle, chainsaw, ATV, or other small internal combustion engine without an approved and working spark arrestor.

Unified Fire speaks to FOX 13 News about what to know BEFORE lighting off fireworks:

What to know before lighting fireworks in Utah

"Anything at this point can spark a wildfire, so it’s important to use your fire sense," Barnes said. "We are prepared to respond to these fires, but it is difficult in these dry conditions. And as we keep seeing these 100-degree temperatures and as we move into the holiday weekends when people are going to be out recreating, we’re going to see more fires and we need people to be conscientious out there."

Fireworks are now top of mind for many firefighters. The only legal days to set them off this month are from July 2-5 and July 23-35. People are urged to check with their city to find out where they can be ignited safely (for example, St. George has restricted them to only 19 parks in the city because of fire danger).

Information on fire restrictions statewide and by municipality can be found here.

If someone is found to have caused a wildfire, Barnes said the state is authorized to pursue damages. Over the past several years, the state has collected roughly $2.3 million in mitigation costs, she said.

"You don’t think you’re going to be the one to cause a wildfire. That’s not the case. One single spark can start a wildfire. We do have a cost recovery program and there is a price you can pay for starting a wildfire," Barnes said.