Campfires will be prohibited in unincorporated areas of Box Elder and other counties in northern Utah beginning this weekend as officials implement new summer fire restrictions.
Persistent hot and dry weather has prompted the restrictions, which take effect at 8 a.m. Saturday, July 18, Box Elder County Fire Marshal Corey Barton said.
Beginning Saturday morning, open fires will be outlawed in unincorporated areas of Box Elder, Cache, Rich and Weber counties until further notice. Also off limits in those areas are the use of fireworks, tracer ammunition, exploding targets, and torch cutting or welding without a permit.
Several counties in the central and southern parts of Utah already have similar restrictions in place, including Juab, Millard, Sevier, Sanpete and Wayne counties, said Kaitlyn Webb, statewide prevention and fire communications coordinator for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
Webb said that wildfires have already burned more than 150,000 acres of mostly open land in the state this year. She said fire danger across most of the state remains high, with low humidity, high daytime temperatures and frequent winds combining to create “higher than normal fire potential” in many areas.
As of last week, Webb said there had been 644 wildfires started so far this year, compared with 221 at this time last year and 409 in 2018. While many of those 644 were small and quickly extinguished, 520 of them were human caused, representing 81 percent of all wildfires in Utah this year.
“Given the current fire conditions and fire behavior firefighters are experiencing, prevention of human-caused fires is crucial,” Webb said.
Officials decided that putting restrictions in place ahead of the Pioneer Day holiday weekend was prudent given the high incidence of human-caused fires this year, and the fact that many people celebrate the state holiday by lighting their own fireworks.
Webb said there were 68 new fire starts over the July 4 holiday weekend, including 18 started by fireworks, 13 by equipment, and three by campfires.
Cities, towns and other incorporated areas still have jurisdiction over whether to allow fireworks within their borders. Brigham City, Perry and Willard have had their own restrictions in place since the beginning of July, but those in the northern part of Box Elder County have not put extra restrictions in place yet.
The discharge of fireworks remains off limits on lands owned and operated by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and Utah State Parks.
Several fires started by lightning in early June burned about 10,000 acres in remote parts of Box Elder County. While the fire season has been relatively quiet since then, Barton said it’s important to remain vigilant about fire prevention as an abundance of grasses and other fuels continue to dry out and sit ready to burn.
As on Monday there were three active wildfires across the state, the largest being a 125-acre blaze in southeastern Utah. The largest fire in the state so far this year, the Canal Fire, was recently contained and extinguished after consuming more than 78,000 acres in Millard County.