Fire restrictions lifted statewide, but caution urged

Published: Saturday, Sept. 8 2012 12:00 p.m. MDT

611 acres burned during the Rose Crest Fire in Herriman. Residents were allowed to return to their homes on Saturday, June 30, 2012.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time in months, the map of Utah was not dotted with a computer graphic flame Saturday, the icon used to mark an active wildfire.

As of midnight Thursday, all 2012 fire restrictions implemented by the Bureau of Land Management and the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands were lifted statewide. But agency officials said fire season is not over and the threat to home and health has not disappeared.

"We get wildfires every day and many of them still effect homes and people," Jason Curry of the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands said. "But they get put out pretty quickly and things don't really get that much attention. ... Multi-day fires are a lot fewer now."

An 816-acre fire was burning in Millard County Saturday. And though "low-key" it was still being fought and contained, he said.

"We still need to use good, safe campfire practices and everyone needs to be careful doing anything that might lead to wildfires," State Forester Dick Buehler said.

The official end to the fire season is Oct. 31. And while lightning-caused fires often become more frequent in the fall, Curry said that doesn't mean the risk of human-caused fires is eliminated.

"Looking ahead, our biggest single cause of human-caused fires in the fall are campfires," he said, noting that it's a busy time for hunting. "It's important for people to put that fire out before they go to bed and before they leave camp and to make sure that it's out cold."

Still, cooler temperatures and increased moisture have helped improve conditions to the point that state fire managers have lifted all restrictions on "campfires and other normally permitted activities" on BLM, state and unincorporated private lands. However, there may still be various restrictions implemented by individual cities and towns.

Though the statewide restrictions on target shooting have also been lifted, temporary restrictions implemented by the BLM on about 900 acres of land west of Utah Lake remain in place.

Those planning any agricultural or debris burns must obtain a fire permit from county officials.

As of Sept. 5, 1,453 fires had burned on 466,198 of Utah's acres this year, according to UtahFireInfo.gov, an interagency website that maps and updates wildfire information.

Curry said the dry winter left "extremely dry" fuel conditions that led to large fires, especially during the months of June and July. On June 29, the 10-alarm Rose Crest Fire forced Herriman residents from their home and the blaze ultimately damaged or destroyed six homes.

Evacuations were ordered for 80 homes on July 3 after the Quail Fire broke out in the hills above Alpine. The Wood Hollow Fire in Sanpete County claimed the life of one man, who was discovered on June 27, and as many as 80 homes and structures. Two firefighters were killed battling the White Rock Fire in Iron County on June 3.

Evacuations, closures and "explosive fire conditions" fueled by heat and wind became routine as Utah Gov. Gary Herbert repeatedly urged Utahns to use common sense. The human-caused Dump Fire that loomed over Saratoga Springs and led to the evacuation of nearly 9,000 residents in late June gave way to flooding and mud flows just last week.

"This year was certainly a bigger year than we've seen in the last five years," Curry said. "Two-thousand seven was a relatively big fire season and this year definitely exceeded that."

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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