Utah expands fire restrictions in 20 counties ahead of Pioneer Day weekend

Fire restriction signs are posted around Boulder, Garfield County, on Sunday, June 26. The Color Country, Central Utah and Northern Utah fire managers increased fire restrictions in parts of 20 out of Utah's 29 counties on Monday.

Fire restriction signs are posted around Boulder, Garfield County, on Sunday, June 26. The Color Country, Central Utah and Northern Utah fire managers increased fire restrictions in parts of 20 out of Utah's 29 counties on Monday. (Jay Hancock, KSL-TV)

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Summer monsoons over the past few weeks have helped ease some dry conditions in Utah, but state and federal fire agencies say they haven't been widespread enough to reduce issues throughout most of the state.

"We are super, super dry still in a lot of the areas," said Kayli Yardley, the fire prevention and communications coordinator for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

Thus, as Utah heads into the Pioneer Day weekend, Color Country, Central Utah and Northern Utah Interagency fire managers began implementing new fire restrictions throughout almost all unincorporated county, state and federally managed land across 20 of the state's 29 counties.

The new restrictions, which went into effect on Monday, ban any campfires or open fires outside of agency-approved and -maintained campgrounds and home sites as well as shooting of exploding targets or tracer ammunition.

Fireworks are already barred from any state or federally managed land and unincorporated areas. The new restrictions won't change the rules at municipalities that have outlined their own locations to light off fireworks during the Pioneer Day weekend.

Other restrictions include:

  • No cutting, grinding or welding of metal in areas of dry vegetation. Acetylene torches are also prohibited in these areas.
  • No use of off-highway vehicles, chainsaws or internal combustion engines in the circled areas without a working and properly maintained spark arrestor.
  • No smoking near vegetation or outside of a developed recreation site, personal vehicle or building.
  • Sky lanterns, Chinese lanterns, fire balloons, acetylene balloons or similar devices are prohibited.

The counties outlined are:

  • Beaver
  • Box Elder
  • Cache
  • Davis
  • Garfield
  • Iron
  • Juab
  • Kane
  • Millard
  • Morgan
  • Piute
  • Rich
  • Salt Lake
  • Sanpete
  • Sevier
  • Tooele
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wayne
  • Weber

The restrictions also apply to land administered by the Bureau of Land Management in Wasatch and Summit counties. The exceptions are Uinta-Wasatch-Cache and Manti La-Sal national forests.

The monsoonal double-edged sword

There have been 582 wildfire starts already this year, entering Tuesday. Although that's down 10% from the same point in time last year, 133 of the fire starts happened in the past week, according to Yardley.

A handful of human-caused fire starts happened earlier in the month, including the Halfway Hill Fire, this year's largest fire to date, which prompted Utah Gov. Spencer Cox to remind Utahns about fire safety while outdoors.

Chris Delaney, the Utah State Fire Management officer for the BLM, explained that despite monsoon moisture over the past few weeks, the vast majority of the state remains in extreme drought, which is one key reason that conditions are still dry across the state. At least 83% of Utah remains in extreme drought, per the U.S. Drought Monitor.

"While the moisture we received was much needed, it has not been enough to reduce our wildland fire risk," he said in a statement. "We still need every Utahn to use their fire sense and to be a responsible public land user when enjoying the outdoors."

Monsoonal storms can be sort of a double-edged sword for firefighters, Yardley adds. The moisture can be very beneficial for dry conditions, but storms may also produce lightning, which caused a good number of new starts over the past week. They may also result in vegetation growth that quickly dries out when hot and dry conditions return between storms.

"We might get that trend of a drying period that will impact how fast those new fuels cure. That can (add) an extra layer of fuel," she said. "Yes, we need the rain, but also it just depends on how that weather is going to play out afterward."

The fire conditions are still severe enough to increase restrictions in parts of 20 counties.

Utah fire experts say it's vital that people check local restrictions before heading out to recreate in Utah's outdoors. They hope that the Deuel Creek, Halfway Hill, Jacob City and Sardine Canyon fires — all of which were human-caused — offer a reminder of what can happen when people make poor decisions while outdoors.

"They were very much avoidable human-caused starts," Yardley said. "And it's important for Utahns to take that back with them and realize it's everyone's to be careful and to use safe practices when you're working with fire."

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Utah wildfiresUtah droughtOutdoors & RecEnvironmentUtah
Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.


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