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Wildfire season is beginning. Recreate carefully outdoors

A person in an orange helmet observes a fire among trees in a forest.
Wildfires can damage natural resources as well as private property.

Karl Hunt, a public information officer with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, & State Lands, said he saw fewer fires than he expected to over this past Fourth of July holiday.

“We didn't have anything until that fire here on the Wasatch Front on Sunday …and then just a few incidents on Monday. So it fairly was a fairly good holiday in that regard. But still, wish you could not see that happen,” Hunt said.

Among the factors contributing to Utah’s wildfires are the dry, desert vegetation, weather like drought and wind, and the presence of a lot of people recreating outdoors who may not practice fire-safe behavior, Hunt said.

“That was why we started this fire sense campaign is we really looked at it and said, you know, human behavior is our biggest cause. And we need to try and raise awareness and change that,” Hunt said.

Despite their reputation for sparking wildfires, fireworks are not the biggest problem, Hunt said.

“When it comes to reasons for wildfires, our biggest ones are campfires and equipment,” Hunt said.

Failing to properly douse a campfire or dragging a chain behind your vehicle can spark a flame in dry vegetation that could spread quickly.

With dry conditions across the state, Hunt said fire risk is high this summer.

“It's kind of a two-edged sword though, for us. Because with not as much water, some of those highly ignitable fuels don't grow as high so it's easier to manage, right. But at the same time, we need the water here in the state and that can create a higher fuel potential. But if there's enough moisture, those fuels stay green or longer. And so they're not ignitable like you would expect.

Listen for part II on Monday about what the continued drought means for people and natural resources.

Caroline Long is a science reporter at UPR. She is curious about the natural world and passionate about communicating her findings with others. As a PhD student in Biology at Utah State University, she spends most of her time in the lab or at the coyote facility, studying social behavior. In her free time, she enjoys making art, listening to music, and hiking.