ST. GEORGE — As a wildfire grows to more than 10,000 acres in size in central Utah and a blaze in southwest Colorado has forced over 1,000 home evacuations, officials are tightening fire restrictions.
Across nearly the entirety of Southern Utah, stretching from the state’s west to east boundaries, officials have implemented some level of fire restrictions. New restrictions were implemented Friday in Carbon, Emery, San Juan and Grand counties, and existing restrictions have been elevated in the Navajo Nation.
Making campfires, lighting fireworks and using welding equipment are among the major activities banned as a result of the restrictions.
The fire restrictions’ high-caution approach to wildfire prevention comes in the face of very real fire danger. In central Utah, the Trail Mountain fire has reached approximately 10,600 acres in size. The fire started June 4 in the Manti-Lasal mountain range and is only 10 percent contained as of Friday morning.
A combination of excessive heat, high winds and drought conditions are contributing to high fire danger throughout Utah and other Western states, such as Colorado, where a large fire has burned through nearly 33,000 acres and required extensive evacuations. The human-caused fire is not expected to be fully contained until the end of June, according to fire managers.
Current and forecasted weather conditions – including gusty winds and low humidity – have the potential to cause fires to rapidly grow in size and intensity before first responders can contain them, according to the National Weather Service. As a result, red flag warnings have been issued throughout most of Southern Utah and southern Nevada.
Complicating the matter are new declarations of drought emergencies in Grand, Emery, Carbon and San Juan counties. Forests in these areas have become especially dry and susceptible to fire.
Even as a storm sweeps through a large portion of Utah Friday, the National Weather Service warns that new fire starts are possible from scattered thunderstorms accompanying the storm.
The new fire restrictions in Carbon, Emery, San Juan and Grand counties were issued via order Friday by the Utah Department of Natural Resources in all unincorporated private and state lands. Federal fire restrictions are also in place in national parks and monuments and lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
Fire restrictions have already been in place in Washington, Iron, Beaver, Kane and Garfield counties since June 1 or earlier.
All of the affected regions include the following prohibitions:
- Igniting, building, maintaining or using a fire, including charcoal briquettes.
- Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle, trailer or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area that is paved or free from vegetation.
- Discharging or using any kind of fireworks, tracer ammunition or other pyrotechnic devices, including exploding targets.
- Cutting, welding or grinding metal in areas of dry vegetation.
- Operating a motorcycle, chainsaw, ATV or other small internal combustion engine without an approved and working spark arrester.
Stoves and grills fueled by petroleum or liquid propane gas products with a shut-off valve are allowed in areas clear of flammable vegetation within 3 feet of the device.
In the Navajo Nation, President Russell Begaye signed an executive order Thursday implementing Stage 2 fire restrictions throughout the reservation, which includes a portion of southeastern Utah.
“All Navajo is now well aware, and cannot deny the state of extreme and exceptional drought facing our nation,” Begaye said in a statement. “For the safety of all living on Navajo, we are putting into effect Stage 2 Fire Restrictions.”
“I encourage everyone to be careful and to become familiar with the fire restrictions. The drought we are experiencing is affecting not only the people but also our plants, traditional herbs, crops, insects and livestock.”
The upgrade from Stage 1 to Stage 2 fire restrictions prohibits the following activities in the Navajo Nation:
- Possession, manufacturing, sale or use of fireworks or other pyrotechnic devices.
- All debris (trash) and field-clearing burning.
- All wood burning, charcoal fires, campfires, warming fires and charcoal barbecues.
- Use of firearms and incendiary devices without a valid permit.
- The use and operation of chainsaws or any other internal combustion engines between the hours of 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Smokers should practice extreme caution. Smoking is recommended only in permitted areas and in an enclosed vehicle and for traditional and ceremonial uses.
For more information on fire restrictions and wildfires in Utah, visit the state’s fire info website.
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