State Fire Officials Are Seeing an Increase in Fire Activity

SALT LAKE (July 2, 2024)—The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands has seen increased fire activity along roadsides and related to agricultural/debris burning this fire year.   

Wildfires started by vehicles and other equipment have been on the rise this year. Since Memorial Day weekend and the start of the summer travel season, Utah has experienced 56 wildfires caused by motor vehicles. 

Travelers are encouraged to use their Fire Sense along Utah’s roadways. According to the Utah Fire Sense website, it is important to check that your brakes and tires are in good condition. Worn-out brake pads and tires and low tire pressure can expose the rim, creating sparks. When towing, ensure all trailer chains are tightened so they do not drag along the road. 

If you experience an emergency and have to pull over to the side of the road or when you reach your destination, park your vehicle away from dry vegetation. The hot exhaust components can ignite the fine grasses and shrubs often found along roadways and at lower elevations. 

“Another leading cause of wildfire in Utah is from agricultural and debris burns that escape into neighboring lands. We encourage residents to follow all laws concerning burning yard debris”, said Jamie Barnes, the Director/State Forester for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. 

Since the beginning of the year, Utah has seen 72 wildfires due to escaped ag or debris burns. Of these, 31 have occurred during closed fire season.

According to Utah Code 65A-8-211, the closed fire season runs from June 1 through October 31. The law also states that an individual is guilty of a class C misdemeanor if the individual sets on fire a forest, brush, range, field, cultivated land or a debris pile without securing a written permit from a deputy designated by the state forester such as a County Fire Warden and then complying fully with the permit.

All individuals who are lawfully conducting a burn during closed fire season must notify an applicable public safety answering point for the jurisdiction of where the burn will be taking place. It is unlawful to burn during a Red Flag Warning. 

An individual who acquires a burn permit and notifies the appropriate public safety answering point does not relieve themselves from personal liability for the damage caused by a fire. 

”These fires are preventable,” said Barnes, “Those parties that cause a wildfire can and will be held accountable for the damage caused. The state actively pursues cost recovery to pay fire suppression costs.”

The weather is often a contributing factor in how severe these fires become. With temperatures reaching close to and exceeding 100 degrees this summer, it is easy for a wildfire to start. 

WIldfires that start due to ag/debris burning and along roadsides often threaten homes and communities. If you see a wildfire start, call 911 immediately. The quicker resources can respond to the fire, the better chance firefighters have of stopping a wildfire before it grows into a larger harder to contain fire.