SALT LAKE CITY — This past summer, wildfires burned nearly 500,000 acres in Utah. Thousands of Utahns were evacuated from their homes, some of which burned.
1,453 fires were reported by Utah Fire Info in 2012. In the month of June, fires were starting more quickly than they could be put out.
Firefighters battled the flames as well as exhaustion.
"We can't afford to have one more spark hit the grass here in Utah," said Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State lands official Jason Curry during the summer. "These fires are moving so quickly, the fire behavior is so erratic and unpredictable with our conditions right now."
The Dump Fire, HerrimanFire and Alpine Fire all raged simultaneously in Utah County during two weeks at the end of June and early July, destroying several homes. The smoke could be seen from the Salt Lake Valley.
But the acreage of those fires paled in comparison to what happened in Central Utah. The Two fires in Sanpete county burned at the same time. The Seely Fire burned out of control for two weeks, while the Wood Hollow fire burned more than 50,000 acres and took one man's life. James Martin refused to leave the Cabin where he was staying.
"I don't have a good answer why he wouldn't leave," said friend Dave Joseph. "I know he didn't have a death wish or anything. He loved life."
In all 466,000 acres burned in the beehive state in 2012. More than 600 fires were Human caused, which raised the question about who should aid for the expensive cost of fighting those fires. It led to a stiff warning from Gov. Gary Herbert.
"If they start a fire, they're going to be liable," he said. "And so you start a fire, just expect you're going to get a big bill and it's going to be a significant amount of money.
It also provoked the U.S. Attorney's office to release a report stating that over the the past 17 years nearly $17 million has been recouped by the state prosecuting those who started a wildfire. A cost which pales in comparison to the homes and lives lost.