Public Land Fire Restrictions Go Into Effect Friday

Public Land Fire Restrictions Go Into Effect Friday

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Revised fire restrictions on public lands will start going into effect in some Utah areas as soon as Friday.

Last year's restrictions varied widely across the state, creating some confusion.

State and federal land managers believe this year's restrictions will be clearer.

"We've changed the restrictions. We've simplified the process," said Susan Marzec, fire spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Last year, officials employed a tiered set of restrictions, with several stages governing everything from lighting campfires and using camp stoves to riding off-highway vehicles and firing tracer ammunition. The stages were not consistent within a small geographic area.

This year, restrictions will apply uniformly over one or more large areas of the state. With the state already divided into five fire-dispatch areas, the idea is to get all land managers within each area to agree on whether to issue no restrictions, partial restrictions or a total ban on fire.

Most of Utah currently is under the no-restrictions designation.

Under the partial restrictions, fires are prohibited except within designated fire pits and grills in developed camping or picnic sites. Smoking is prohibited except in a vehicle, building, developed recreation site or in an area cleared 3 feet in diameter of flammable material. Discharging fireworks, firearms or any incendiary device is prohibited.

Such restrictions will go into effect Friday in southwestern Utah's Cedar City dispatch area.

The total ban designation would prohibit all fires, except for devices using petroleum or propane.

In southwestern Utah, extremely dry conditions prompted Zion National Park to implement fire restrictions a few weeks ago, even though most other jurisdictions in the area did not believe restrictions were warranted until this week. Those restrictions will not apply to a sliver of the Dixie National Forest that lies east of Interstate 15 in Beaver.

"We're doing everything we can to limit confusion," Marzec said. "But we can't tell the other agencies what to do. ... and frankly, if it doesn't work, we'll call the (state fire managers) together and let them rework it."

The first major fire restrictions of the summer will take effect Friday in southwestern Utah.

No open fires outside of designated campgrounds will be allowed in Washington, Kane, Garfield and Iron counties, as well as Beaver County west of Interstate 15.

The continuing drought and buildup of dead timber, brush and grasses has prompted the restrictions, which come about a month later than last year.

Esther Benson, a Bureau of Land Management fire education specialist in Cedar City, said a normal spring rainfall this year initially kept the fire danger down.

But that same rainfall prompted the growth of grass that has now dried out and has increased the danger. Large-diameter trees are at about 5 percent moisture content, well below the 20 percent level at which they become easily flammable.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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