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    ‘It can happen just like that’: Utah officials urge caution ahead of what could be an extreme fire season

    By Jonathon SharpKade Garner,


    SALT LAKE CITY ( ABC4 ) — A brush fire temporarily closed Little Cottonwood Canyon on Monday morning, becoming one of nearly 200 wildfires Utah has already seen this year.

    While back-to-back snowy winters have brought abundant growth, much of it is drying out amid above-average June heat. The situation has state leaders urging Utahns to be vigilant for what could be an extreme fire season.

    “We really do need to stay vigilant,” Gov. Spencer Cox said at a Monday news conference. “It can be an awesome summer here in Utah, or it can be challenging.”

    100-acre wildfire in Kane Co. causes power outages in Utah, Arizona

    State and federal officials want residents to be careful, as a single spark could lead to a raging fire. Of the roughly 200 wildfires sparked this year, 159 of them have been caused by humans.

    “Everybody thinks they’re not going to be the one to start a wildfire, but that’s not always the case,” said Jamie Barnes, the director of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. “It can be the simplest things that can start a wildfire.”

    Simple steps can also be taken to prevent fires. These include fully putting out campfires and making sure no chains are dragging behind vehicles.

    Typically during the late spring, brush fires are snuffed out before reaching 10 acres. But southern Utah has already seen some grow past 100 acres, such as the one in Kane County earlier this month.

    The threat is not confined to the south.

    “Do not get too complacent in the northern part of the state because the fuels are more abundant and thicker than normal,” said Basil Newmerzhycky, the predictive services fire weather program manager at the Bureau of Land Management.

    “When we reach that dry tipping point, which could be in the next 10 to 20 days, it can happen just like that, and we can start getting large fires out of nowhere,” he added.

    Over the last four years, Utahns have reduced human-caused fires by 60%. Still, officials say that fire conditions like they are now haven’t been seen since 2012, making it more important for Utahns to be careful not to start wildfires.

    “Mostly, I ask that you keep these guys safe,” said Cox, referring to the firefighters at the news conference. “We want them to be able to go home to their families.”

    Officials are asking Utahns to adhere to guidelines for campfires while heading out on their summer adventures. They’re also asking that people follow proper protocol while target shooting and ensure that all heavy machinery is up to code.

    Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

    For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to ABC4 Utah.

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