Fire season to date: Humans 37, Nature 6

With fire season in full swing in Southern Utah, residents need to exercise extreme caution when working or playing outdoors. Washington County, Utah, circa May 2016 | Photo by Mike Cole, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Temperatures are high, grass is long and dry and all the pieces are in place for fire season. In Color Country, humans are ahead of nature 37 to 6 in causing this season’s fires. Attention is needed and there are precautions to be taken to create defensible space around properties.

Numerous blazes have torched the land in Southern Utah already this year, most notably the fire that devoured several structures near Pintura.

With fire season in full swing in Southern Utah, residents need to exercise extreme caution when working or playing outdoors. Location and date of photo unspecified | Photo by Mike Cole, St. George News
With fire season in full swing in Southern Utah, residents need to exercise extreme caution when working or playing outdoors. Washington County, Utah, circa May 2016 | Photo by Mike Cole, St. George News

Fire season officially began May 1, and since the start of the season, there has been a disproportionate amount of human-caused fires, Bill Roach, manager for Color Country Interagency Fire Center, said.

“So far this year in Color Country we’ve had six lightning-caused fires for a total of 1 acre (burned),” Roach said, “and 37 human-caused fires for a total of 96 acres.”

There hasn’t been a predominant factor in the human-caused fires, Roach said, but people need to be cautious when doing a variety of activities that might spark a blaze: welding, grinding or cutting, anything that might cause a fire. People need to exercise extreme caution during the fire season, especially if they are outdoors or near dry grass.

It’s windy, hot and dry, so about all we need is ignition,” Roach said. “When we don’t get the lightning we get the people.”

To avoid causing a dangerous fire, Roach said the easiest thing to do is to be certain of your surroundings: If in dry grass, don’t drive, smoke or do anything that might lead to a blaze.

With fire season in full swing in Southern Utah, residents need to exercise extreme caution when working or playing outdoors. Location and date of photo unspecified | Photo by Mike Cole, St. George News
With fire season in full swing in Southern Utah, residents need to exercise extreme caution when working or playing outdoors. Washington County, Utah, circa May 2016 | Photo by Mike Cole, St. George News

“It’s kind of a common sense thing, ” Roach said.

Currently the biggest fire threat is from grass, he said. Since the forests are primarily at higher elevations, that environment is still relatively green.

Color Country Interagency Fire Center oversees a vast area: some 15 million acres including Dixie National Forest, the Arizona Strip, Zion National Park, Southern Paiute tribal lands and areas administered by the Cedar City Bureau of Land Management, including the five counties of Southern Utah: Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane and Washington.

Fire season generally runs from May 1 until September 30, Roach said, but the way this season is shaping up, the Color Country Fire Center may be looking at a longer-than-usual period.

“If we get dry and stay dry at higher elevations, we’ll be chasing fires into October.”

The higher-than-average amount of precipitation the area has received this year is a double-edged sword. Increased water in the soil and deeper snowpack typically means a later fire season in the high country, but it also means that there is increased plant growth, meaning more fuel for fires.

With fire season in full swing in Southern Utah, residents need to exercise extreme caution when working or playing outdoors. Washington County, Utah, circa May 2016 | Photo by Mike Cole, St. George News
With fire season in full swing in Southern Utah, residents need to exercise extreme caution when working or playing outdoors. Washington County, Utah, circa May 2016 | Photo by Mike Cole, St. George News

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are multiple steps to create a defensible and survivable space around a dwelling. Some of the tips include:

  • Maintain clean roof surfaces and gutters: make sure no leaves, branches and other flammable materials have accumulated
  • Remove parts of any tree that extend to within 10 feet of the flue opening of a stove or chimney
  • Place a screen of nonflammable material over flue openings, not to exceed 1/2 inch
  • Space landscape vegetation far enough apart to ensure that fire cannot easily spread to the home or vegetation surrounding the dwelling
  • Remove all branches from trees up to the 15-foot mark
  • Create a “fuel break” – a fuel-free circle around the structure
  • Dispose of ashes from stoves or fireplaces after soaking them in a metal pail of water
  • Store gasoline or other flammable fuels in approved containers away from occupied structures
  • Likewise store propane tanks far from occupied buildings and keep them clear of flammable vegetation
  • Any combustible materials such as firewood, wooden tables, chairs, etc., should also be kept clear of buildings
  • Keep a garden hose connected to an outlet
  • Keep addresses clearly visible in case of fire
  • All roads and driveways should be at least 16 feet in width
  • Keep fire tools handy: ladders long enough to reach the roof, plus shovels, rakes and buckets for wate
  • Each home should have at least two different entrance and exit routes.

Resources:

Email: dgilman@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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