A KSL News article published on September 12th stated that the West was seeing at least 56 fires at that time. Of those 56 fires, 29 were defined as “uncontained large fires” according to the National Interagency Coordination Center. KSL News also reported that 19,500 firefighters were battling over 813,000 acres collectively of fires across the West. A combination of historic drought, unusually high temperatures, and a windy summer has created the ideal setting for these fires to ignite and burn. Utah has seen a few fires this year, but Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California have been hit hard this summer.
If you love our beautiful mountains full of healthy trees, being fire aware is important, especially as droughts are increasing and temperatures are rising. The Utah Department of Natural Resources’ Fire Sense Collaboration says: “fire sense is common sense” and we’re all responsible to implement what we already know. They estimate that by using some common “fire sense” methods, we can prevent about 70% of wildfires in Utah. Here are some ways to not be a fire starter:
- Keep campfires contained and douse them completely when done: People often walk away from a fire thinking they’ve put it out adequately only to have it start back up again. If it’s still smoking, even if there are no flames, it’s not ready to leave. Feel it with the back of your hand, and if it’s not cool, keep dousing it. Fires should also be lit on cleared ground or in an approved firepit, and you never want to leave a fire unattended. If the day is windy, take extra care, and be sure to have water or an extinguisher close by.
- Be mindful of your vehicle – Hot cars on dry grass isn’t a good combination. If your car is overheating, avoid pulling onto a dry area that is susceptible to catching fire. And if you’re hauling something, be aware of dragging chains that can cause sparks.
- Be cautious when shooting guns – If you’re out shooting with friends, aim away from dry grass and rocks that could spark. Place your targets away from problematic areas and don’t use exploding targets on public lands, national parks, or anywhere that is extra dry. If we’re in the middle of a heat wave or it’s a windy day, reschedule target practice for another time.
- Enjoy your fireworks legally and responsibly – Fireworks are loved here in Utah but keep your patriotism honest by lighting them off in a way that makes our forefathers proud. Protect our beautiful state by on lighting in legal areas and on designated holidays. Keep water and an extinguisher close by and never light fireworks by dry grass or on state and federal lands. Aerial fireworks need extra caution.
- Perform firebreak cleaning on your property – Although this tip is more for the protection of your property, firebreak cleaning is still a benefit to your local environment overall. Landscape wisely to discourage the possibility of a spark and keep the area clear of diseased or dead trees.