2012 wildfire season a destructive one in Utah; will 2013 be as bad?
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
With temperatures rising throughout Utah, wildfires have become a greater concern, following a 2012 fire season in which it cost more than $50 million to fight wildfires.
On Thursday, high winds contributed to a pair of Utah County fires in Provo and Saratoga Springs. Last June, a 5,507-acre fire near Saratoga Springs was started by target shooters. That blaze forced thousands to flee their homes and cost $2.1 million to fight.
In Colorado this week, a wildfire has destroyed at least 379 homes, the most destructive blaze in that state's history. Two people have been found dead in an area burned by the Colorado wildfire.
According to the Utah Fire Info website, in 2013 there have been 126 fires that have burned 962 acres as of June 10. That doesn't include the two fires in Utah County on Thursday. Another recent blaze, the Flood Canyon Fire that is now 100 percent contained, burned 66 acres near Tooele.
"As the weather becomes more extreme across the nation, so does the threat of fire," Joe Daugherty, spokesman with the Utah Division of Emergency Management, told the Deseret News in March. "Utahns are encouraged to know their risks, take action and be an example to others."
The 2012 wildfire season was a costly one in Utah.
Through mid-August of last year, the price tag to fight more than 1,000 wildfires in Utah was an estimated $50 million. Of that, $16 million was Utah's portion of the estimated cost, according to the Utah Department of Natural Resources. More than 422,000 acres were damaged by fire in the state in 2012.
The Seeley Fire, which was started by lightning near Huntington and Scofield, was the costliest fire to battle, at $8.7 million. Utah's share of that cost was about $1.4 million, since there were federal lands involved.
The Wood Hollow Fire in Sanpete County was more costly for Utah taxpayers, as the state was responsible for all but about $500,000 of an estimated $5.7 million price tag. The blaze, likely caused by wind pushing a power line too close to the top of another power pole and sparking a grass fire, burned 47,400 acres and destroyed 160 structures in Sanpete County, including 52 homes. It also left one man dead.
More than 20 fires, including the one in Saratoga Springs, were caused by target shooting. The majority of those happened on the west side of Utah Lake, prompting a restriction on firearms in that area.
Fireworks were suspected of starting the Pole Creek Fire near Neola in Duchesne County. The blaze burned 2,000 acres.
Several fires also hit near residential areas. On the foothills in Alpine, the Quail Fire burned more than 5,000 acres and caused about 80 homes to be evacuated. A brush fire near Layton, the Ridge Fire, forced about 30 homes to be evacuated and burned fewer than 50 acres. Both were determined to be human caused.
Lightning was the cause of several other fires, including the Faust Fire near Vernal in Tooele County. This blaze burned more than 22,000 acres, consumed about 34 square miles and shut down the historic Pony Express Road. The Pinyon Fire near Eagle Mountain had an evacuation order for resident of about 100 homes.
In April, local experts said the fire risk in Utah this year is high but not as bad as 2012.
"There's not a lot of snow up there as compared to normal levels, but we're sitting a whole lot better than we were last year at this time," Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands spokesman Jason Curry told the Associated Press. Last year, there was much less snow in March and April, kicking off the fire season with an "extremely early and vicious start."
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