The number of human-started wildfires in the past two weeks is lower than it was in 2019 and 2020.
According to data from the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Land, during the period between June 28 and July 4, there were 69 human-started wildfires in 2019 and 88 in 2020. For that same period in 2021, there were 46. Most of those fires were suppressed within the first day.
Kaitlyn Webb, the organization’s communications coordinator, said those numbers are “really positive.”
Webb said there were fewer firework-related fires than usual on the weekend of July 4.
Webb said there were still a few firework-related starts, but they were small and firefighters were able to quickly contain them.
“It’s incredible,” she said. “We didn’t have any large, significant human-caused fires over the weekend.”
Webb said she believes the low numbers are from residents being cautious and abiding by restrictions.
“They’re taking to heart our terms of fire sense and being aware of the drought conditions we’re in and what that means for travel, recreation and work, however you might engage in accidentally starting a fire,” she said.
Webb said while that data is positive, people need to continue using caution because it’s still fire season and conditions aren’t likely to improve anytime soon.
Even though there are fewer human-started fires, Webb said there’s still “too many” and that people can do more.
“We’re going to have these hot and dry and high-fire conditions with us for a while yet,” she said. “We’re asking the public to check the restrictions and abide by those. Be aware of warnings in areas you’re going to be.”
Webb said one way people can avoid starting fires is to make sure campfires are cold to the touch before leaving.
She also said when target shooting with firearms, choose a location wisely.
“Make sure you’re avoiding anything with really dry vegetation and rocks,” she said. “We recommend clay and paper targets as well as lead core ammunition. Those are your best choices if you’re going to target shoot outside, especially in a year like this with fire potential.”
During the period when the data was collected, abandoned campfires and vehicle-related starts were the leading causes of human-started fires.
As of July 4, nearly 60,000 acres in Utah were burned by wildfires, of which only just over 20,000 were human-started and the rest lightning-caused. Naturally occurring wildfires have the potential to benefit ecosystems, depending on a number of factors like forest type. If natural wildfires don’t threaten property, management agencies may have the option to let them burn under strict regulations.
This article is published through the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aims to inform readers across the state.