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PM News Brief: Record Breaking Fire Season, 100 Deadliest Days & COVID-19 Case Spike

A photo of traffic on an Utah highway.
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From Memorial Day to Labor Day, 102 people died on Utah’s roads according to numbers released Wednesday by the state’s Department of Transportation. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, September 16, 2020

State

Affordable Housing

A 2019 law that tackles housing affordability through city planning has entered its “toddler stage” but it’s still too soon to measure results, the Utah League of Cities and Towns told a state legislative committee Wednesday. The law required 82 cities, based on their population, to modify their general plans by December 2019 to address moderate income housing near public transit. The League said that all of the municipalities have done that and have to report their progress by the end of the year. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

State Releases 100 Deadliest Days Report

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, 102 people died on Utah’s roads according to numbers released Wednesday by the state’s Department of Transportation. The time between the two holidays is referred to as the “100 Deadliest Days.” John Gleason, with UDOT, said that’s because they typically see a 50% increase in the number of roadway fatalities. “There is a sense of, hey, you know, I'm not dealing with winter weather,” Gleason said. “I'm not dealing with, in COVID maybe as many other vehicles out on the road, I can relax a little bit. And nothing could be further from the truth.” He said a vast majority of these deaths were preventable, as more than 50 people were speeding or not wearing a seatbelt. Last year during this period, 61 people died on the state’s roads. — Ross Terrell

Utah Reports More Than 700 New COVID-19 Cases

New COVID-19 cases continue to climb as Utah health officials announced another 747 Wednesday. State epidemiologist Angela Dunn said in a statement, Utah is experiencing a new spike in cases, similar to what the state saw earlier in the summer. She urged people to keep wearing masks and practice social distancing as these preventative measures have been shown to help slow the spread of the virus. Utah’s seven-day case average is now up to 585 with an 11% positivity rate. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Record Breaking Year For Human Caused Wildfires

This year has been a record-breaking one for human-caused wildfires in Utah — as there have now been 990 fires started by people this year. The previous record came in 2015 with 937 according to the state’s Division of Forestry, Fires and State Lands. There are currently seven fires larger than 100 acres burning across Utah, and humans account for 75% of fires in the state so far. The National Weather Service has issued a fire weather watch for Thursday because of dry, windy conditions. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Follow KUER’s coverage of Utah’s 2020 Fire Season.

Northern Utah

Felony Charges Filed Against Salt Lake City Officer Over K-9 Use

The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office has filed felony aggravated assault charges against a Salt Lake City police officer for his use of a K-9 during an arrest. In April, three officers were responding to a report of domestic violence. Body cam footage shows officer Nickolas Pearce ordering his K-9 to attack Jeffery Ryans, a Black man, who was on his knees with his hands up. The probable cause statement said Ryans did not resist arrest or the officers. He suffered lacerations to his leg which required surgery. Video of the encounter sparked outrage this summer, and the Salt Lake City Police Department temporarily suspended its use of police dogs. SLCPD said in a statement it will take the charges into account as it finalizes its own investigation. — Caroline Ballard

Man Fatally Shot In Bountiful

A Utah man armed with a bow and arrow, shotgun and knife was killed Tuesday night during a shootout with police officers near a suburban high school. Lt. Dave Edwards of the Bountiful Police Department said a 27-year-old man asked police to shoot him following a confrontation near Viewmont High School. Edwards said the man was killed in a fight with police, but it's currently unknown who fired first. Three officers from the department are on administrative leave and the Davis County protocol team is investigating the shooting. Police said their body cameras were on at the time of the incident. — Associated Press

Region/Nation

Colorado River Watershed In Precarious Position

The southwest’s biggest reservoirs will continue to struggle over the next five years, according to new data from the federal agency that oversees them. A Bureau of Reclamation model shows Lakes Powell and Mead are likely to continue declining until 2026. The reservoirs are fed by the Colorado River, which is experiencing intense drought and rapid warming due to climate change. The Bureau’s commissioner Brenda Burman said recent agreements are meant to stave off more severe declines in reservoir levels. “We knew we had risk in the five and six years, and the drought contingency plans are meant to address that,” Burman said. Even with those plans, the risk of an official shortage on the Colorado River is increasing. More than 62% of the watershed is experiencing extreme drought. The amount of water that flowed into Lake Powell this summer was about half of what it is in an average year. — Luke Runyon, KUNC