MOAB — As a result of recent rain and cooler temperatures, a slew of fire restrictions on state and federally managed lands across southeast Utah are slated to be rescinded just ahead of the final holiday weekend of the summer.
State and federal fire managers said Tuesday that fire restrictions will be lifted on all state lands and unincorporated private lands in Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan counties, as well as Bureau of Land Management land within the Moab and Monticello field offices in Grand and San Juan counties, and National Park Service land in the area. The restrictions will be officially lifted Wednesday morning.
It follows restrictions that were previously lifted at U.S. Forest Service land within the Moab and Monticello ranger districts of the Manti-La Sal National Forest within Grand and San Juan counties.
The Color Country Interagency Fire Managers also removed all fire restrictions on all federally administered public lands, state lands and unincorporated private lands in Beaver, Grand, Iron, Kane and Washington counties on Friday. Those were also lifted as a result of monsoonal rain.
The Utah Division of Forestry Fire & State Lands reports there have been 956 fires in Utah through Aug. 23, with 52% caused by humans. They've burned over 60,000 acres. While fires starts have slowed down since the first half of the year, the agency reports there has been at least one new fire start in the state ever day since May 17.
Utah's situation is still vastly different than other Western places, especially California. With several massive fires destroying various areas of the state, the U.S Forest Service announced Monday that all California national forests will be closed for the first two weeks of September in an effort to "better provide public and firefighter safety."
Despite the lesser fire threat in Utah, fire managers and land management agencies still urge people to be careful when outdoors. For instance, firefighters blamed an unattended campfire as the cause of the Oak Grove Fire in southwest Utah over the weekend. The fire, now listed at 696 acres in size, led to the evacuation of a campsite within the Dixie National Forest and served as a reminder that the monsoonal rains that resulted in flash flooding across the region don't equate to a complete end to fire potential.
All portions of Utah remain in at least "severe" drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. At least 88% of the state remains its "extreme" drought category, as well.
"Southeastern Utah is still in drought conditions and vegetation is dry, so it is important to take precautions and practice fire safety all year long," BLM officials wrote in a statement Tuesday.
That's also why they want people to use fire-safe practices when spending time outdoors this holiday weekend and any time afterward. That includes:
- Keep exhaust pipes and sparks from vehicles away from vegetation. Stay on designated roads and trails to avoid igniting dry vegetation with hot exhaust and keep all chains and straps secured so they don't drag on the ground and cause sparks.
- Carry a shovel, water, a bucket or a fire extinguisher when working or camping on public lands. Always drown and stir fires to ensure they are completely out before leaving camp. Be advised that some parts of Utah may have campfire restrictions.
- If target shooting outdoors, aim away from dry grass and rock. Place targets away from rock backstops, which can cause ricochets and sparks. Exploding targets and tracer rounds can cause sparks and are never allowed on public lands and national parks.
More tips for fire safety can be found here.