- Associated Press - Friday, August 14, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah’s wildfire season has been calm so far, despite early concerns following one of the driest winters on record.

Almost 10 square miles have gone up in smoke this year so far, said Jason Curry, a spokesman for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. By comparison, about 44 square miles burned in 2014 and 109 square miles in 2013.

Curry said an early monsoon kept the state relatively wet and green. Those are good conditions for keeping blazes at bay.

“We’ve never seen anything that low in terms of acres burned, and we’re in the middle of August,” Curry said Friday.

The weather has helped, and so have efforts to clear out fire fuels, like dead trees and oak brush that can turn a blaze from a brush fire to a catastrophic wildfire. State workers have also been reseeding areas prone to invasive species like cheat grass that can provide fast-burning fuel, especially during hotter weather.

Utah’s quiet season comes as many others states endure raging fires. Ken Frederick of the National Interagency Fire Center said about 8,000 square miles have burned in Alaska, for instance.

Winds in the West this week have helped stoke wildfires sweeping across the Northern Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest, posing problems for firefighters trying to contain the flames fed by drought.

As weather was expected to worsen fires in some areas, the federal government said it will exhaust its firefighting budget next week.

The 300 or so Utah-based wildfire fighters have stayed busy helping in Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Canada, where local governments pay for the aid, Curry said.

There were two wildfires burning in Utah on Friday.

A blaze started by lightning almost one month ago in the central Utah mountains near Richfield has burned about 3 1/2 square miles. It’s not spreading but is still burning as crews let it take it’s natural course. No homes are threatened.

Another lightning-set fire is burning near the central Utah town of Orangeville, but it is very small at only 81 acres.

Curry warned that late-season wildfires can still occur over the next two months.

On paper, wildfire season lasts until Oct. 30, and late-season fires can be devastating. In 2010, a September blaze sparked by live fire at Camp Williams consumed 6.7 square miles, burned down three houses and forced the evacuation of at least 1,600 homes.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide