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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.

Utah’s Fire Season Has Been Quiet So Far This Year, But Officials Say We’re Not Out Of The Woods Yet

A photo of a smokey landscape.
Utah Fire Info Twitter
The Morgan Canyon Fire is one of two active fires larger than 100 acres in Utah. It started June 17, though fire officials recently said there’s no sign of smoke or flames. This year’s fire season has been dampened by monsoons and there have been fewer human-caused starts, compared to last year.

Utah has been in a historic drought for much of 2021 but this summer’s fire season has been “quieter” than in recent years. A few monsoon weather events and a drop in human-caused starts have helped.

Storms over the last month in southern Utah have brought significant rain to the area, which has dampened fire activity, according to Nanette Hosenfeld, a meteorologist with predictive services at the Great Basin Coordination Center. She said despite moisture in the south, fires in other parts of the state could soon pick up.

“We're watching to see how the weather plays out between now and September to get a better idea of what the northern fire season will look like, but we’re not expecting anything above normal,” Hosenfeld said.

She said the rains have also brought in a new crop of grasses in southern Utah. They aren’t expected to dry out quickly enough to become fuel for fires this fall, but she said if this winter is another dry one, they could pose a problem for next year’s fire season.

“We'll be watching those for next year if we get significant snowfall that flatten those grasses and makes it hard for them to contribute to next year's fires,” Hosenfeld said.

This year there have been 881 wildfires in Utah and at least one ignition every day since May 17. However, 92% of fires in Utah this year have been contained at 10 acres or less, according to Kayli Yardley, the statewide prevention specialist with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

“We did have a little bit of crazy wildfires at the beginning in June, where we had several active at the same time,” Yardley said. “The monsoonal moisture [has] been a huge help for sure, but we're still not out of the woods, unfortunately.”

Along with decreased fire activity thanks to the rain, there has also been a nearly 40% drop in human-caused fires compared to last year, which was a record breaker. There have been 470 fires started by people this year. By this point in 2020, there were 753.

Yardley said despite the positive trends, people should continue to pay attention to fire restrictions across the state.

“It takes all of us to do our part and make sure that we can do what we can to prevent human-caused starts,” she said. “We're still super swamped and busy. If we're not fighting them here, we're sending our resources elsewhere. But … it's a little bit of a relief to recognize that the public's being smart and they are using their fire sense.”

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