Meteorologists are calling this winter the warmest on record. While this might be good news to picnickers and hikers, officials are saying the pleasant weather could have some unpleasant effects on the environment.
Jason Curry from the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands says the dry weather will likely bring an increase in wildfires.
“It’s a question that’s on everyone’s minds,” Curry said. “It’s not to the point where everybody is wringing their hands and expecting this cataclysmic fire season. But things have been dry. We’re below normal snowpack-wise, we’re below normal in precipitation—so we know things are dry. And that is a concern. It’s a big worry for us, especially if we don’t get any more precipitation.”
Wildfire season doesn’t officially begin until June 1. However, Curry says some departments, including his own, are training their crews early this year.
Forestry Services are not on their own, the federal government is doing its part to fight wildfires as well.
U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has released the initial plan for a new wildfire-fighting strategy. The 27-page report is intended to protect greater sage grouse habitat, especially in the Great Basin region of Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, and California. The plan calls for protecting areas most at risk by using veteran crews, rural fire departments and fire protection associations made up of ranchers who can respond quickly.
The Utah Legislature has also enacted a law that will require the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands to create a state-wide wildland fire policy.
While the government is working to fight wildfires, Curry says Utahns can help prevent them.
“While we do have these nice temperatures and the opportunity is there, it’s a great time for people to prepare their own homes and lots,” Curry said.
He suggests reducing dry debris and cleaning out gutters to help prevent wildfires.