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Health, Science & Environment
KUER’s Southeast Utah Bureau is based in San Juan County. The Southwest Utah Bureau is based in the St. George area. Both initiatives focus on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues, faith and spirituality and other topics of relevance to Utahns.

Utah’s Snow Storms May Do Little For the Coming Fire Season

A photo of small prescribed burn fires in snowy conditions.
Courtesy of Utah Fire Info
A prescribed burn in Wayne County in early February. Over the winter, fire managers burn piles of wood in snowy conditions.

Winter storms have brought lots of snow to parts of Utah, but the state is still behind in normal snowpack levels.

Up until the end of January, snowpack in the state was only 50-60% of normal, according to Great Basin Predictive Services meteorologist Basil Newmerzhycky. He said the situation was looking “dire” until recent winter storms over the last week or so increased Utah’s average snowpack to 80% of normal.

However, most of the state is still in extreme or exceptional drought conditions.

“To really minimize the drought, we need enough precipitation to make our snowpack like 120% or 130% of normal, that would really help it,” he said. “It all depends on what happens in the next six weeks.”

Newmerzhycky said if the state is below 80% normal snowpack going into the fire season, conditions tend to be worse than usual.

Kait Webb, a spokesperson for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, said it’s too early to tell if these storms will be enough to dampen the upcoming fire season. She said generally, if the state doesn’t get enough consistent precipitation over the winter, the season tends to start earlier.

No matter what happens with the weather, she said it’s up to people to be safe, especially after last year’s record breaking year for human caused fires.

“We can't necessarily influence how much snow we get in a winter, how dry it is in the spring, and those conditions really influence what kind of fire season we're going to tend to have,” Webb said. “What we can influence is how many human caused wildfires we're getting.”

Webb said she’s excited to see the snow and hopes there’s more coming.

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