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Utah’s monsoon has loosened some fire restrictions but the drought still persists

Monsoonal rain flooding, Salt Lake City, Aug. 6, 2022
Elaine Clark
A weekend monsoonal storm brought heavy rains and some street flooding to part of Salt Lake City on Aug. 6, 20222. The water level climbed over the curbs and topped the sidewalk on the corner of 300 East and 2100 South.

Thanks to recent rain, much of southeastern Utah, as well as the central counties of Juab and Millard, will see fire restrictions lifted.

Specifically, Bureau of Land Management Fire Management Officer Clark Maughan pointed to the total rainfall and the accompanying humidity brought by the August monsoonal surge.

“In combination, those factors have really reduced the fire danger here over the last several weeks, up to a month,” he said.

Fire restrictions remain in place across much of northern Utah. That means no open fires or smoking unless it's in a designated area. Fireworks are still restricted statewide.

The monsoon has also helped just the littlest bit with the drought. According to the Utah Division of Water Resources, Utah has seen more rain than average since mid-July, and soil moisture levels are above normal for this time of year.

Division of Water Resources Drought Coordinator Laura Haskell said the rain and humidity inched parts of the state out of the most severe drought categories, but a drought usually takes as long to get out of as it did to get into it.

“It’s probably not going to go away in one year, but we are in a better situation than we were this time last year,” she said. “There were a few spots that got missed, but we really did have monsoons over most of the state and most areas saw some improvement, which was welcome.”

As of Aug. 11, 79% of the state is still in some form of extreme drought.

Despite the favorable conditions, Maughan said “we’re still going to have fires out there” for the rest of the summer.

“We’ve still got lightning, but our risk of those spreading beyond something we can control with the fire suppression resources that we have here diminishes.”

Utah has been lucky this fire season. Maughan said people should still be mindful of fire in the outdoors no matter what current conditions are.

“We’re always preparing for the worst on the fire suppression side of things,” said Maughan. “That’s how we train our folks; expect the unexpected out there when it comes to fire. We need to practice fire sense out there at all times – that’s year round.”

Utah has seen 20 percent fewer wildfires so far this year than in 2021.

Sean is KUER’s politics reporter.
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