MYTON, Duchesne County — 2020 was a record year for the number of wildfires in Utah started by humans, and drought conditions in 2021 could mean it's more important than ever to make a plan to protect your home from the fire threat.
Of the 1,547 overall wildfires that burned in the state last year, 1,202 of them (78%) were human-caused.
With drier conditions this year, wildfire officials are asking everyone to be careful and to consider defensible space around their homes.
Two wildfires burned into one near Myton in Duchesne County earlier this week. Wildfires this early in the season are not necessarily rare.
What's different about the Myton Complex Fire is how quickly it spread this early in the season. In only two days, the fire burned about 2,700 acres and caused some evacuations for a handful of homes in the area.
Since most wildfire hotshot crews aren't on duty just yet, the Utah National Guard was called in to help fight the fire. As of Wednesday afternoon, the fire was about 25% contained and evacuations had been lifted.
The wind had a lot to do with the rapid spread of flames, but the lack of snow and rain have made the soil as dry as state water engineers have ever recorded. That leads to dry brush, grass and trees — the perfect combination of fuel for wildfires.
"Once we do get a storm like we've gotten over the last few days, a lot of it just goes down into the soil, it doesn't really stay on the surface," said Jason Curry, a wildfire investigator and public information officer for Utah's Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands. "That water doesn't have a direct impact on the growing plants."
Defensible space around homes is always important, but with record dry conditions and wildfires already burning in Utah this season, it could be as important as ever. We chatted with @UtahFFSL Jason Curry about it. We'll have a story on @KSL5TV tonight at 6. @UtahWildfire#ksltvpic.twitter.com/6YspvB2Yc8— Alex Cabrero (@KSL_AlexCabrero) March 31, 2021
It's also why Curry stressed the importance of defensible space around your home this season. Having that defensible space is a topic he talks about every year, but this year he feels it's as important as ever with the dry conditions around the state.
"What do you have in terms of fuel pockets in and around your home, your roofing materials, gutters, all of those things that can be addressed and really reduce your risks significantly," said Curry. "There are a lot of things you can do to move towards that ideal situation."
Things such as pruning trees and branches near your home that are taller than 10 feet, thinning scrub brush, weeds and dry grasses and storing any firewood away from your home.
Creating defensible space around your home gives firefighters a better chance to save it in case of a wildfire.
"You want to be in a situation where your home is counted among those that are defendable," said Curry.
Your local fire department can assess your property and can give you some good tips for defensible space as well as a field office with Utah's Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands.
The best part is those assessments are free.