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2018 wildfire season could be a bad one

Brush fire in Bountiful, August 2017

This weekend’s rain is welcome news for state officials who are already worried about wildfires.

“The fuels are very very dry, especially this time of year, which is abnormal, in higher elevations,” said Jason Curry with the state Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. “We are seeing fires up there that are moving and growing bigger and faster than we would typically see this time of year.”

The warm weather and poor snow pack and the return of the drought all means it could be a bad season, unless we get more rain.

“This one this weekend might be the last rainstorm we see for quite a while. That combined with the fact that the fuels are very dry, is lining things up to look like the fire season of 2012 in terms of losses, and acres burned, and cost,” said Curry.

“The big unknown, is rain. We didn’t expect this rain this weekend. If we get more of those surprises throughout the summer, like we did in 2016, that would be the best case scenario,” he said.

Curry says they have been making all their hires and getting staffing levels ready on their hot shot, hand and engine crews; the hires are pretty much done. Right now they rely on volunteers, because the fire season is typically June 1 through September 30. But now it feels like it is practically year round. Two Utah hotshot crews are in other states right now helping them.

They are also prepared to use more drones.

“A couple years ago and last year, they used full-sized helicopters that were unmanned to experiment with drops and equipment shuttles. That was a success. The more technology advances, and the more we look at cost savings and exposure to risk, drones will come into play a lot more,” said Curry.