VERNAL — Given the high winds expected later in the week and already-dry conditions, fire officials in eastern Utah have said that striking a match even in well-protected fire ring would be a bad idea. They're asking those camping or recreating to think carefully about lighting a fire, though no explicit restrictions have been issued.
"They're going to see 20- to 30-mph gusts, with sustained 15- to 20-mph (winds), so it's going to be windy and hot and dry," said Ashley National Forest fire management officer Ivan Erskine.
That forecast prompted Ashley National Forest officials to issue a plea Monday that people think twice before lighting campfires.
"We don't have any fire restrictions currently in place, but we do encourage people, when it's very windy, to be careful," Erskine said.
The warning comes just a week shy of the one-year anniversary of some last summer's biggest wildfires. Fire managers in eastern Utah have said they're seeing almost identical conditions this year.
"Our last fuel samples told us that our fuels are in a critical status," said Kelsey Birchell, a mitigation education specialist with the Bureau of Land Management. "It's very dry below 7,000 feet."
"With these hot winds that we've been having and will continue to have, we will only dry out faster."
With that in mind, fire bosses have changed their staffing plans. Erskine said he's having fire staffers work longer or work on their day off in order to be prepared in the event of an ignition.
The Ashley National Forest has not issued mandatory fire restrictions. They are only asking people to use some common sense: to look at how dry it is, what the wind might be like, or simply don't strike a match at all.