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Fire Officials Urge Caution

Fire Officials Urge Caution

Posted - May 23, 2003 at 9:22 p.m.



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Jed Boal reportingWith the arrival of Memorial Day and a spring heat wave, fire officials fear wildfire season is looming. And as we learned just a year ago, green hills are no guarantee a fire won't take off.

Last June intense wildfires erupted across Utah.

With temperatures hovering near record highs, the state is drying out quickly.

Moisture early in May certainly helped, but fire officials say this fire season could be as bad as last year, and fire danger is already extreme in many areas.

Kathy Jo Pollack/National Forest Service: "SO, IT'S STILL AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS SITUATION, AND WE NEED TO KEEP EVERYBODY AWARE OF THAT. PLEASE BE CAREFUL WITH FIRES."

Right now, campfires are okay unless otherwise posted. But officials say everyone needs to be very cautious and only use designated fire pits, or dig a hole and line it well.

They also want ATV riders to stay on trails and not cut across dry brush, which could easily spark.

Jed Boal/Eyewitness News: "HERE'S ANOTHER PERSISTENT PROBLEM IN THE FIFTH STRAIGHT YEAR OF DROUGHT--VEGETATION ALL ACROSS THE STATE IS DRIER NOW THAN IT WAS THIS TIME LAST YEAR. TAKE A LOOK AT THIS SCRUB OAK. PLENTY OF GREEN LEAVES, BUT THE MOISTURE LEVEL IN THE WOOD IS EXTREMELY LOW. "

Kathy Jo Pollack/National Forest Service: "A LOT OF THE TIMBER IS STILL IN A DROUGHT SCENARIO. THEY DON'T HAVE THE MOISTURE THEY NEED. SO IF WE HAVE A FIRE, THE FINE FUELS WILL CARRY IT INTO THE TREES."

So far, no wildfires to fight in Utah. But if there isn't a significant change in the weather, we could be looking at fire restrictions before the Fourth of July.

Kathy Jo Pollack/National Forest Service: "IF WE HAVE THE HIGH TEMPERATURES, DRY WINDS AND NO MOISTURE, THE FIRE DANGER IS GOING TO GO UP CONSIDERABLY."

Firefighting resources this summer are about what they were last year. There will be no air tankers, but, helicopters and other aircraft will be available for firefighting from the sky.

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