COALVILLE — Although statewide fire restrictions have ended, firefighters across Utah are urging caution and one county has decided to extend its restrictions to play it safe.
Summit County government officials moved to keep fire restrictions there in place until Oct. 1. After that, permits and calls to firefighters are required for anything larger than a cooking campfire through Halloween, said Summit County fire warden Bryce Boyer.
“We’ve had a couple (fires) in the forests from lightning holdovers that have come up, and also some abandoned campfires where people didn’t put them out,” Boyer said.
On Sept. 5, Wanship had a close call with a human-caused wildfire. Boyer said the 61-acre blaze was sparked sometime before noon and quickly reached to within 40 yards of some homes. The fire forced evacuations in the area.
As a firefighter approached him that day, Iain McKay watched the flames get closer as emergency responders zipped past his home to fight the blaze.
“I was like, ‘Are we still on standby?’” McKay questioned. “He’s like, 'No, you need to get off the property right now.'”
McKay and his wife were forced to rush their excitable flock of rescue geese to safer ground.
“All the neighbors were down there laughing at us, because the two of us working together is not always the best — we’re husband and wife,” McKay quipped.
Statewide, firefighters are telling people they still need to consider the little things to prevent fires.
“Pulling our vehicles off to the side of the road, and other things that could lead to wildfires,” said Jason Curry, spokesman for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. “We just need to be very careful.”
While conditions have improved since reaching extremely dangerous levels in June and July, Curry said very dry conditions still exist.
Major wildfires have also developed in Utah as late as October, he said. Boyer added that he has fought smaller wildfires in Summit County as late as November.
Firefighters are urging campers and hunters to make sure campfires — where legal — are completely cold before leaving them.
Meanwhile, Summit County Manager Bob Jasper said cities, counties and the state in the future need to be more consistent with their fire rules and restrictions. Jasper said his county adopted the fire restrictions until Oct. 1 only because that was what the state had asked the county to do, and he wasn’t sure why the state then lifted the restrictions earlier.
“It’s confusing – we should be on the same page,” Jasper said.