Fire season: Utah County’s been average, so far

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While the amount of fires in Utah is average, the amount of dry areas is especially high in 2016.

So far, the 2016 fire season in Utah County has been about average. But that could all change with a tiny spark hitting dry grass on a hot day.

“You’ve got to be careful, the grasses are so dry right now,” said Utah County Fire Capt. Andrew Watson.

He said there have been some wildfires in Utah County this summer, but none has exceeded the 250-acre mark. But in the last month, temperatures have been hot, there hasn’t been much rain and that’s drying out grass.

“The fire danger is extremely high,” he said. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Because of the dry, hot conditions, on July 17 the Utah state forester issued restrictions for all unincorporated private and all state lands in Utah, Salt Lake, Tooele, Morgan and Davis counties:

• No open fires except campfires built within facilities provided for fires in approved campgrounds, picnic areas or permanently improved places of habitation.

• No smoking except in an enclosed vehicle or building, at a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that’s cleared to the soil.

• No fireworks, tracer ammunition or other pyrotechnic devises, including explosive targets.

• No cutting, welding, or grinding metal in places with dry vegetation.These restrictions don’t apply to private land in cities or towns.

“Be careful in everything you do. One little spark can cause a catastrophic fire.” —Utah County Fire Capt. Andrew Watson

Even in areas where campfires are allowed, Watson said people need to be careful with them. He suggests keeping fires small and always having water so you can put it out if needed. If you’re camping in an area with a lot of wind or dry fuels, don’t start a campfire; instead, cook with propane or another contained heating source.

Even activities that don’t involve flames can start fires, like four-wheeling.

“If you’re out four-wheeling … you may spark a fire inadvertently,” Watson said. “Be careful in everything you do. One little spark can cause a catastrophic fire.”

More fire safety tips from utahfireinfo.gov:

Building safe campfires

• Never leave a campfire unattended.

• When putting out a campfire, drown the fire, stir it, and drown it again.

• Always have adult supervision.

Off-road safety

• Never park on or drive through dry grass.

• Grease trailer wheels, check tires and ensure safety chains are not touching the ground.

• Internal combustion engines on off-road vehicles require a spark arrestor.

• Check and clean the spark arrestor.

• Carry a shovel and fire extinguisher in your vehicle or OHV/ATV.

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Amie Rose has more than 14 years of experience writing and editing at newspapers in Utah and New Mexico. She graduated from BYU with a degree in journalism. She lives in Utah Valley with her husband, toddler and crazy dog.

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