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Utah's spring wildfire conditions now a severe concern for state officials

by Lindsay Aerts, KSL News Radio (Salt Lake City) |

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah fire officials are spreading the word about Utah’s already dangerous wildfire conditions, well ahead of wildfire season.

They say the above average wildfires this spring show how dangerous conditions already are, well ahead of the typical start of wildfire season.

So far this year, statistics are causing alarm.

185 wildfires and more than 6,360 acres have burned statewide as of May 4. This is well above the average for this time of year compared to previous years. Also, all but three starts have been human-caused so far this year.

Trends over the past 10 years include equipment, debris, camp fire and miscellaneous (fireworks, firearms, cutting, welding and grinding. Nine firearms-related starts have occurred already, which is high for this time of year. Normally our total each year for firearm-related starts is in the teens, though last year Utah had more than 50.

Officials also say there are also worrisome drought and fuel conditions.

More than 99 percent of the state is in drought, with 90.20 percent of the state in extreme drought.

Fire managers have been observing fuel moisture levels and fire activity often seen in June and July.

Soil moisture is extremely low, which increases fire danger. The number of spring fires and acres burned highlights just how dangerous conditions are.

Snowpack peaked 10 days early at 81 percent of average, as measured by the state Natural Resources Conservation Service. Peaking early means the runoff won’t be as effective, with less water making it to fill rivers and streams.