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Health, Science & Environment
Keep up with the latest news about wildfires in Utah. If you have tips or questions, contact Lexi Peery at lpeery@kuer.org.

‘Bone Dry Conditions’ In Utah Are Hindering Fire Suppression Efforts

A photo of a firefighter on the side of a burning bush on the side of a road.
Courtesy of Utah Fire Info
The Bear Fire has burned over 5,000 acres in Carbon County near Helper. It started because of lightning.

Five large fires in Utah have started in the last week, burning at least 400 acres each so far. Hot, dry and windy conditions have fanned the flames making suppression efforts difficult.

Firefighters are battling blazes they usually don’t see until the late summer. The statewide drought and windy weather have resulted in frequent red flag warnings. These warnings are issued by the National Weather Service when wind and temperatures are high and humidity is low, according to meteorologist Monica Traphagan.

“We're in a period of exceptionally high fire danger now — higher than we've seen in quite some time because of the exceptional drought we're in,” Traphagan said. “Things are getting started very early, and so it's probably going to be a long, tough fire season, unfortunately.”

Of the five large fires burning across Utah, the Bear Fire in Carbon County is the biggest. Since it started on June 8 and has engulfed over 5,000 acres. It forced U.S. Route 6 to close as of Thursday afternoon.

Geoff Liesik, a public information officer for the fire, said it has grown rapidly in the past few days because of the terrain it’s in and the “bone dry conditions.”

“Not only do we have the radiant heat of the sun that's drying out these fuels, but those high winds also cause the fuels to dry out even faster,” Liesik said. “[Fuels are] very receptive to fire right now.”

The Mammoth Fire started June 5 and has burned around 700 acres in Garfield County. Earlier this week, commissioners declared a state of emergency and have received money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to combat it.

Bobbi Filbert, a PIO for the fire, said when it comes to getting resources to control blazes they’re in a good spot, for now.

“It’s early in the season, we're fortunate that we can get the resources we need,” Filbert said. “But as we move through summer and it's hotter and drier across larger portions of the western United States and fires start to happen in different areas, those firefighting resources are going to become more stressed and more thinned out.”

Stage 1 fire restrictions are in place across the state, which means no campfires out of established pits. Smoking, fireworks and using machinery near dry vegetation are also not allowed.

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