ST. GEORGE — State and local fire officials are saying the annual fire season may as well be the "fire year," with brush fires occurring outside of the usual season window and dangerous fire conditions that are usually not seen until the summer months already in play.
"We're in a county that is very dry and very brittle," Hurricane Valley Fire Chief Tom Kuhlmann said during a Washington County Commission meeting Tuesday.
Kuhlmann said he and other area fire chiefs used to talk about the "oncoming fire season" this time of year, but with more fires igniting in the winter and spring, the fire season may as well run from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.
"We're in several years of drought, and each year will compound on the year before, so we see each year get worse and worse," Kuhlmann said. "We've seen fire season expand to 365 days for several years now. It stretches throughout the year because of how dry we are."
The fire chief mentioned recent brush fires the occurred in the region in December and at the start of the year, which usually don't happen until much warmer temperatures roll in. Another issue is that more people are heading into the outdoors as a part of their recreational retreats. While this has triggered an increase in search and rescue incidents, it also carries a threat of more human-caused fires given the sheer amount of dry fuels.
"If people have to go recreate, we ask that they consider their actions and avoid potential wildfire events," Kuhlmann said.