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Jed Boal reportingDave Dalrymple/State Fire Management Coordinator: "RIGHT NOW WE HAVE A VERY, VERY HIGH POTENTIAL FOR LARGE FIRES LATER ON."
Fire season may be just a lightening strike away, and the potential for explosive fires this year is even greater than last year.
The Governor today took a routine step to help prepare for a wildfire season that could be anything but routine for Utah firefighters.
He issued a state of emergency declaration that clears the way for emergency funding when the fires flare up.
After more than three weeks without measureable rainfall, much of Utah is ready to burn. Look around where you live.
Wildfire season has already started in the southern part of the state. It's two weeks away or less in the rest of the state.
In June 2002, wildfires erupted in Utah, the intensity of which state firefighters had seldom seen before.
As State Fire Management Coordinator Dave Dalrymple looks around our sun-baked state this year,he doesn't like what he sees.
Dave Dalrymple/State Fire Management Coordinator: "IT'S GOT A LOT OF POTENTIAL, IT'S JUST A MATTER OF WHEN AND WHERE, I'M AFRAID. BUT, WE'LL HAVE TO SEE WHAT MOTHER NATURE DISHES OUT TO US."
So far, she's set the stage for severe fires this summer. And right now, even if it's green, doesn't mean it won't burn.
Two weeks ago, this human-caused fire in the Tooele Valley scorched ten acres of private land.
Teresa Rigby/Bureau of Land Management: JUST ABOUT ANYTHING YOU DO OUT HERE THAT CREATES A SPARK COULD CAUSE A FIRE"
Jed Boal/Eyewitness News: TAKE A LOOK AT THE FUELS THAT ARE READY TO BURN ACROSS THE STATE. THIS JUNE GRASS...CHEAT GRASS, EXPLODED A MONTH AGO WITH EARLY MAY RAINS. NOW, IT'S ALL DRIED OUT."
"DEEPER IN THE WOODS, BIGGER FUELS ARE ALSO DRIED OUT, FROM EXTENDED DROUGHT AND LAND MANAGEMENT POLICY AIMED AT PUTTING OUT BIG FIRES."
"Dave Dalrymple/State Fire Management Coordinator: WE HAVE AN ENORMOUS BUILD-UP OF OVER-MATURE DECADENT MATERIAL, STANDING, AND DOWNED DEAD MATERIAL, THAT'S WAY OFF THE CHARTS OF WHAT IT SHOULD BE."
And each year, more people move into the midst of wildlands, increasing the risk to humans.
With a lot of lightening and little rain, it's not too early for the public to focus on fire prevention.
Dave Dalrymple/State Fire Management Coordinator: "WE'VE GOT TO HAVE THE HELP OF THE PUBLIC, BECAUSE THINGS ARE REALLY LOOKING GRIM OUT THERE. WITHOUT THEIR HELP WE COULD BE IN DEEP SHAPE."
Typically 50-percent of our wildfires are caused by people.
Last year, it wasn't as bad as it could have been, in part because people paid attention to bans on campfires and fireworks. You'll hear more about those in the coming weeks if we don't get a lot of rain.