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Hot forecast not a good sign for Utah’s already busy fire season

(Photo: Chopper 5, file)

SALT LAKE CITY — Fire officials say we’re on pace to have more than the average number of wildfires in Utah, and the hot weather in the forecast has them especially concerned for a busy fire season.

The triple-digit heat, the wind and the low humidity are making conditions ripe for wildfires.  Even if the fire season started late, we’ve surpassed the number of blazes than we’ve seen in years past.

“We’re approaching about 300 so far this year.  So far, in the month of July, we’ve had more starts in northern Utah than in the entire month of June, combined,” says Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands Spokesman Jason Curry.

All over the state, crews have been sent to roughly 120 reports of fires just this month.  Some of those reports were false alarms, but, Curry says, “Of those, I know of five that were lightning.  All of the rest, well over 100 fires so far this month have been human-caused.”

As you may expect, fireworks are one of the biggest causes of blazes.  State officials say we’re seeing more of those than in past years.

Curry says, “Some of them are you genuine misuse of fireworks.  Some of them, we’re investigating as intentional… using fireworks as an incendiary device.”

Also, analysts are seeing an uptick in the number of fires caused by target shooting.  This is frustrating to Curry since shooters had been doing a better job of finding safe places to practice, and shooting groups were telling their members how to avoid causing major sparks.

“I think some of that messaging has gone by the wayside and the popularity of target shooting has continued to increase,” he says.