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

Small weekend fires in Southern Utah are a reminder of the risk campfires pose in a drought

Hurricane Hill brush fire, Washington County Emergency Services, May 29, 2022
Courtesy Washington County Emergency Services
The burn scar on Hurricane Hill alongside SR59 where crews fought an early morning brushfire, May 29, 2022.

Memorial Day Weekend was busy when it came to outdoor recreation in southwest Utah. Despite the crowds, fire officials say things were pretty quiet.

“With the amount of wind, temperatures and low relative humidity that we experienced over the weekend, I’d say we dodged a bullet,” said Mike Melton, a southwest Utah fire management officer with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

A handful of small fires started in the area mainly because of unattended campfires, but he said all were contained quickly. If a campfire isn’t cool to the touch, the wind can spread the embers outside of the fire ring.

The largest fire started Sunday next to a road in Hurricane and burned 12 acres. It was nearly contained as of Tuesday morning. The exact cause is under investigation, but Melton said it was because of people.

“Human-caused fires are preventable and things like escaped campfires are just due to neglect,” he said. “People are not prepared to put their fires out when they start them. They need to have water with them.”

In 2020, there was a record number of human-caused starts — over 1,200 or around 79% of all fires. In 2021, people accounted for about half of the fires started.

Storms over the weekend helped slightly with the drought in the northern part of the state, according to Karl Hunt, a spokesperson with Forestry, Fire and State Lands. It could also cause problems with vegetation and fuels later.

“The weather does help it grow a little bit and they green up,” he said. “That may put off the wildfire danger initially, but as those dry out over the summer, it creates more fuel that can potentially turn into something on a bigger scale.”

Melton and Hunt encourage the use of “Fire Sense,” which is the state’s prevention campaign asking people to use common sense. They caution people to make sure campfires are completely out and to prevent sparks from vehicles by making sure there are no chains dragging on the road.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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