Extreme weather conditions in southwest Utah reignite the Left Fork Fire
Extreme weather this weekend sparked over 20 fires. One in southwest Utah reignited, and has burned over 2,600 acres.
The Left Fork Fire burned nearly 100 acres at the beginning of May in Kane County. It was originally started by remnants of a prescribed burn in April. The reignited burn has now spread into Garfield County and smoke was visible from Bryce Canyon National Park.
It’s “exceptionally rare” for them to reignite like this, said Greg Bartin, a fire management officer with the National Park Service.
“We are in the peak of fire season for this part of the world. The next two to three weeks are historically our most challenging conditions,” he said. “And we did have 50-mile an hour winds and single-digit humidity.”
#LeftForkFire update: the fire is moving Northeast and estimated between 600-700 acres and burning in difficult terrain. Extreme weather conditions continue to hamper firefighting ground aviation support. The fire is 10% contained. pic.twitter.com/HCcL4AEoRA— Utah Fire Info (@UtahWildfire) June 19, 2022
Stage 1 Fire Restrictions are currently in effect in southwest Utah. That means no campfires except in designated facilities, no operating machinery near dry vegetation and no fireworks.
Wildfires and prescribed burns are closely monitored after they’re contained, but there can still be hot spots in large logs or underground. Candice Stevenson, a public information officer for the National Interagency Fire Center, said they look for smoke and feel for heat. Though with human eyes it can be hard to spot something that’s smoldering.
Prescribed burns are helpful in maintaining fire-prone landscapes, she said, but they have their own challenges, especially as climate change impacts the region.
“We have more fuels because of dead and dying materials, either caused by drought or other effects of climate change. Prescribed burns are good to get rid of some of that fuel load, but then with any burn, there's risk involved.”
Prescribed burns can only happen when conditions are ideal, but Stevenson said it can be hard to predict what will happen weeks or even months later.
Garfield County Sheriff Danny Perkins disagrees with some practices for prescribed burns. He’d like to see them happen in the fall, then hopefully be fully put out through the winter.
“I don't like starting fires in the spring because of this reason,” he said. “That's just my opinion, there's a lot of opinions out there and they've done this practice for years. This is nothing new, but we are in extreme drought, and so I don’t know … I’m just not too warm and fuzzy about it.”