SALT LAKE CITY — The National Weather Service issued this dire warning: all of Utah is at risk to burn in the next two days.
"Critical fire conditions" are forecast to exist in all of Utah Sunday and Monday as the state wrestles with bone-dry conditions, scorching abnormal heat and strong, gusty winds.
The warning issued Saturday by the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City portends an upper level disturbance that will at first create gusty southwest winds and then a shift that pushes temperatures as much as 15 degrees above what is typical for mid-June in northern Utah. The extra heat will be combined with relatively low humidity and followed by northwest winds Monday.
Rapid drying of Utah's rangelands accompanied by those windy conditions are a perfect recipes for the onslaught of wildfires, which are already keeping crews busy in various portions of the state. An aggressive posture has brought most of the fires under control quickly, but fire officials suspect the worse is yet to come.
Even as fire crews were able to get the upper hand on a nearly 1,600-acre blaze in Tooele County on Saturday, another wildfire popped up to the south at Lake Mountain west of Utah Lake. Reported at 4:15 p.m., Saturday at a mere 20 acres, the fire quickly grew to more than 100 acres and showed no signs of slowing.
Three fire crews, a couple of engines and an aerial attack are being coordinated to extinguish the Wiley Canyon blaze, said Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Cami Lee.
The fire was burning north to south, with 10-foot flame lengths, she said.
Earlier in the day, crews had successfully quelled a nearly 1,600-acre blaze that at one point had threatened the Deseret Chemical Depot, once home to the nation's largest chemical weapons stockpile but now in the closure process.
The rangeland fire at Ophir Creek, Tooele County was first reported about 5 p.m. Friday near mile marker 4 on state Route 73 and is believed to be human-caused.
Lee said the fire grew to 1,572 acres but was fully contained by Saturday morning.
Yet another fire in Utah County kept crews busy Friday afternoon and temporarily forced the closure of a portion of Redwood Road. Dubbed the Little Cove Fire, it grew to 320-acres before it was contained. Fire officials say it, too, was human-caused and target shooters were cited.
Earlier this week, the state's parched conditions led multiple agencies to implement fire restrictions that will be in effect until the threat subsides.
Impacting, the BLM, U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service lands as well as state lands, the restrictions prohibit open fires of any kind except in improved campgrounds or picnic areas and permanently improved structures. Smoking is also banned except in a enclosed vehicle or building or in an area of at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared. Dicharging or using any kind of fireworks, tracer ammunition or other pyrotechnic devices is prohibited.