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Fire Season Arrives Early In The Wasatch Back

Courtesy Utah Division Forestry Fire State Lands


 Fire season has arrived: Summit County already has a moderate fire risk. 


With a drier than usual winter and temperatures warming up, Park City Fire District Marshal Mike Owens said this year the fire season has started earlier than usual in Summit County.

"Every year about this time, people start getting a little bit worried about wildfires, as we certainly should," Owens said. "The conditions this year are different than what we've had in the past several years. We have had conditions like this before, but it's been probably longer than just about anyone can remember."

Owens said the district expects Summit County's risk level to rise to high by this weekend. Summit could see a very high risk soon, dipping into extremes earlier than usual as well. 

Last year was the driest on record for Utah. That was followed by a winter with significantly less snowpack than usual. 

Owens said for the fire outlook to change the county would have to see more moisture than is expected. 

And the biggest risk for fires isn’t natural causes like lightning … It's human caused fires. 

"Throughout the state of Utah out of all the fires we've seen ... only 25 of them have not been human caused," he said. "And that's not such a good thing."

Even with the dangerous conditions, he said it shouldn’t keep people from their outdoor plans as long as they’re cautious. 

"These conditions are not the end of the world," he said. "It's still okay to go outside and have a good time, we just ask that people really think about what they're doing, is it really necessary for you to start a campfire ... Do you have those chains up, so they're not dragging on the ground … if you're using small engines, make sure you have a spark arrestor."

Owens said residents can help the district tackle fires before they get out of control.  

"It doesn't take a lot for someone to call in [and say] ‘hey, I'm smelling smoke, I'm not sure where it's coming from.’ And that's okay, we are more than happy to go out and do those investigations to try to find out what's going on," he said. "Because it's those early warnings that really help us take care of problems before they start."

Owens said fire prevention should be everyone’s priority, but when there is an active fire residents can get notifications through the Summit County and Park City services. 

KPCW News reports on climate change issues are brought to you by the Park City Climate Fund at the Park City Community Foundation, an initiative that engages Park City in implementing local high impact climate solutions that have potential to be effective in similar communities.


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