Fire Season Not as Bad as Expected -- So Far

Fire Season Not as Bad as Expected -- So Far


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Jed Boal ReportingThe threat of wildfires caused by lightning or fireworks looms large this weekend, but so far it's been a pretty successful wildfire season.

Despite severe drought and extreme heat, this wildfire season has not exploded as firefighters feared. It's not over yet, but so far the fire season here in Utah and across the country is not as bad as recent years.

Two nights ago fire threatened those homes at the mouth of Parley’s canyon. A quick attack by firefighters put it out; one of many success stories this summer. When lightning sparked a grassfire last night near Stockton in Tooele County firefighters got on it quickly and have it nearly contained. Another grass fire in South Salt Lake gave homeowners a scare, but fire crews reigned it in at 40 acres.

Despite some close calls the number of Utah fires and acres burned is down. In the Wasatch-Cache National Forest fires have scorched 2500 acres so far this year compared to 13-thousand last year. Fire officials credit initial attack crews.

Robert Tonioli, Wasatch-Cache National Forest: “ Other than Farmington, we’ve kept them under 100 acres. So they’ve been very successful.”

That fire in Farmington burned nearly two thousand acres, but a quick initial attack kept it from destroying homes and getting any bigger. Several days later the crews were shifted east of Huntsville to attack the Causey fire.

Robert Tonioli, Wasatch-Cache National Forest: “ The tankers were here. The helicopters were here. They got on it and yes, it made a big difference.”

Crews have been in the right place at the right time and they've had some luck. The Forest Service has beefed up initial attack crews, intensified training and improved coordination with other agencies.

Nationally the number of fires and acres burned so far this year are much less than last year and less than the ten-year average. But the wildfire season is not over yet.

The next four to six weeks are a critical time; the season could easily heat up in August. And one big fire can change the picture quickly.

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