Utah, Arizona enact new restrictions amid 'rapidly increasing fire danger'

Crews battle the Little Twist Fire in Beaver County on Wednesday. New fire restrictions were implemented in most of Beaver County and southwest Utah on Friday.

Crews battle the Little Twist Fire in Beaver County on Wednesday. New fire restrictions were implemented in most of Beaver County and southwest Utah on Friday. (Utah Fire Info)


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ST. GEORGE — New fire restrictions are now in effect in southwest Utah and northwest Arizona as "rapidly increasing fire danger" builds in the region at the start of summer.

Stage 1 fire restrictions went into effect across nearly all federal, state and unincorporated private land in Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane and Washington counties shortly after midnight on Friday. Fishlake National Forest land in Beaver and Garfield counties is the lone exception.

Devices fueled by liquid petroleum can still be used in the affected areas, but campfires and open flames are banned aside from "agency-improved and maintained campgrounds and homesites." Running water is also required on unincorporated private land, as well as at any cabins or homesites.

Other restrictions include:

  • No smoking near vegetation or outside of a developed recreation site, personal vehicle or building.
  • No use of exploding targets or tracer ammunition.
  • No cutting, grinding or welding in areas of dry vegetation. Acetylene torches are included in this ban.
  • No equipment that doesn't have a properly maintained spark arrestor.
  • No discharging of fireworks or other pyrotechnic devices outside of any approved incorporated city limit area. Fireworks are also only legally allowed to be discharged July 2-5 and July 22-25.

Similar restrictions are also in place for the Bureau of Land Management's Arizona Strip District, located just south of the Utah-Arizona border. The same goes for Arizona state lands and land within the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument.

Utah's restrictions build on some existing regulations in the area. Zion National Park instituted Stage 2 fire restrictions earlier this month, which ban open fires of any kind at Watchman Campground, among other things.

Campfires are only allowed on improved and maintained campgrounds at Lava Point, state land managers note. They're also allowed only within established campgrounds and rings below the high-water mark at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

"Elevated fire danger conditions are present across much of southwest Utah," said Dave Harmon, a southwest Utah fire management officer for the Utah Division of Forestry Fire and State Lands, in a statement on Thursday.

This map shows where Stage I and Stage II fire restrictions exist in southwest Utah and northwest Arizona as of Friday.
This map shows where Stage I and Stage II fire restrictions exist in southwest Utah and northwest Arizona as of Friday. (Photo: Color Country Interagency Fire)

The update comes as Utah's fire season has started to pick up.

The division reported on Wednesday that there were 68 new wildfire starts over the past week, bumping the year-to-date total up to 272 fires. Most of the fires have been small, scorching a little over 4,500 acres altogether. Human causes have accounted for about four-fifths of the fires.

Some parts of southeast and south-central Utah could benefit from the remnants of a tropical storm forecast to impact those areas on Friday. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, only about 1% of Utah is in moderate drought, while nearly a quarter of the state is "abnormally dry." The driest areas are in Utah's southwest corner and eastern edge.

But Harmon points out that "hot and dry weather conditions" are generally expected to remain in Utah into July.

These maps show long-range precipitations and temperature outlooks for the U.S. in July. The Climate Prediction Center estimates stronger odds for hotter- and drier-than-normal conditions across Utah.
These maps show long-range precipitations and temperature outlooks for the U.S. in July. The Climate Prediction Center estimates stronger odds for hotter- and drier-than-normal conditions across Utah. (Photo: National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center)

The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center updated its July long-range outlook on Thursday, listing slightly higher odds for below-normal precipitation across Utah with even stronger odds in northern Utah and southern Idaho. It also lists Utah as having stronger odds of above-normal temperatures, with the strongest probability of above-normal temperatures in eastern Utah.

Most of the West is listed as having odds in favor of hotter and drier conditions, building into the concern that this year's monsoon season could be delayed or diminished.

That could cause problems because the above-normal precipitation from the past two snow seasons means that there is more vegetation that could burn as it dries out.

"On windy days, wildfires have the potential to become larger because there's more available fuel and (it can) spread faster through dry grasses," Harmon said.

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Carter Williams is a reporter who covers general news, local government, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.

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