SALT LAKE CITY — The state agency responsible for educating Utahns about wildfire and fire suppression has some numbers to share with you as we move through the 2019 fire season.
Utah’s wildfire agencies responded to and suppressed 706 wildfires this season. The vast majority of the fires, 92%, were caught and extinguished before they reached 10 acres.
The number they want to call attention to, however, is 65. Or, rather, 65% of all of the fire starts this season have been caused by humans, though, the statistic needs some explaining.
“Overall, it’s an average fire season as far as numbers go,” says Jason Curry with the Utah Division of Forestry Fire and State Lands. “Really what it boils down to is Mother Nature done nearly the level of fire-starting as she has done in years past.
“We haven’t had a lot of lightning activity,” says Curry. “We’ve had a few thunderstorms pass through… but it’s really the humans that are the driving force.”
Curry says these fires have sparked from everything from target shooting to equipment issues, which he says is the biggest fire-starter.
“This year, we’ve had several from people using burn barrels,” Curry says. “Basically, they use a 50-gallon drum, burning their refuse. For the most part, those aren’t allowed in Utah. Most folks don’t know that.”
Of the 706 fires started this year, 460 of them were human started. Last year, there were somewhere around 700 human-caused fires by the end of fire season.
Overall, the forestry division expects the cost of the fires to be around $10 million or more, but last year was worst.
“Last year was far more expensive,” says Curry, “we were in the tens of millions.”
The division is inviting people to take its Wildfire Prevention Pledge.