‘Above Average’ Red Flag Warnings Issued In Utah This Year As State Sees Record-Breaking Fire Season
Red flag warnings are issued by the National Weather Service when the forecast could lead to critical fire conditions.
This year there have been 46 warnings issued in Utah, which is “above average,” said Sam Webber, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City. He said the agency has set measurements for wind speeds and humidity levels that usually trigger a warning.
But if conditions are borderline to those levels, they have been erring on the side of caution.
“We're at near record or record breaking dryness of soils and vegetation,” Webber said. “[And so] given how dry this summer is and how dry all the vegetation is, we've been issuing more warnings.”
Red flag warnings are mostly geared for fire managers across the state, according to Nanette Hosenfeld, a meteorologist with the Great Basin Coordination Center Predictive Services. They help firefighters prepare for potential starts or to be aware when one is actively burning.
But Hosenfeld said they’re also for the public so they can change their behaviors. Though, with so many warnings going out agencies are concerned people will start to ignore them. This year has been a record-breaking year for human-caused fires in Utah — around 78% of them have been because of people.
“It is a concern that people start to kind of block them out if they're routine,” Hosenfeld said. “They just need to be issued for firefighter safety and for fire management purposes.”
Utah’s official fire season runs until Oct. 31, but Hosenfeld said it will likely be extended into November because of dry fuel conditions.