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Health, Science & Environment

What Utahns Do Steps Up Fire Hazard

Jason Curry, spokesman for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands walks up a grassy hillside just above lush Memory Grove. Human activities account for more than half of Utah's fires most years, Curry says.

This weekend’s holiday means fireworks and outdoor fun for many Utahns. It also means more fire risk.

Just ask Jason Curry. He's Utah’s state fire spokesman. He didn’t have to go far from his downtown office Wednesday to find a hillside covered in golden grass. It’s just above lush Memory Grove, but the grass here is thigh-high and so dry that it’s brittle.

“It just crackles under your feet,” says Curry. “It’s just ready to burn. And any type of ignition in this type of environment, especially on these hillsides, is going to end up in a tough-to-tackle fire situation.”

Utah’s already had over 200 fires this season. Backfiring cars, sparking trailer chains, straying holiday fireworks and other human causes typically trigger over half of Utah’s wildfires.

“We’re already busy enough with lightening,” says Curry. “What we don’t want is human-caused fires, because that just gives us more to deal with and more of a chance that something’s going to escape our ability to keep up with it and end up in a large, catastrophic wildfire.”

He says fire and fireworks restrictions vary from place to place and sometimes day to day, so it’s best to check with local agencies.

Heading into City Creek Canyon for a walk with his mother and his dog, Sean Graziano says he’s been surprised to hear Utahns complain about fire limits. His home state of Arizona has tougher ones.

“You actually have more access to everything around you when there are restrictions in place,” he says. “It’s kind of a give and take.”

Graziano is so attuned to fire-prone  landscapes that he carries a fire extinguisher in his JEEP. 

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