After a long stretch in the extreme fire danger level, the U.S. Forest Service has changed its rating to moderate -- but Weber Fire Marshal Ted Black does not know why.
The forest service's danger levels are based on a formula, as far as Black knows, but he said temperatures are still in the high 90s, and "dead grass is dead grass." This is also the time of year when more dry lightning storms move through and can spark another fire, he added.
Large wildfires burned across the state for weeks, and this summer's hot, dry weather has moved local and state officials to implement new, unprecedented measures that are still in effect to deter any more blazes.
For the first time, Dick Buehler, the Utah state forester, restricted target shooting in several counties because of the wildfire hazard. The unincorporated areas of Davis County are part of that ban.
Weber County also banned campfires in improved fire pits this summer, a first for the county as far as Black is aware of.
Still, Northern Utah is looking a little better now than Black thought it would by this time. Almost three-quarters of an inch of rain fell in Northern Utah this month, going by measurements at Salt Lake International Airport, said National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Schoening.
By comparison, the NWS only measured a trace of precipitation at the airport during June.
Black said county officials plan to convene today and discuss whether to lift the ban on campfires in improved fire pits, but that is "still up in the air."
Black encourages campers to instead use propane fires, which look like propane stoves with decorative camping logs that create the ambience of a real fire without the risk of embers that could spark a destructive blaze.
Fires destroyed many acres of grassland, threatened buildings and damaged or destroyed several of them in the Top of Utah this month. The extreme fire danger across the state, thanks to long stretches of intense heat combined with tons of dry vegetation, pushed local fire departments to use new strategies or restrictions to mitigate the damage.
"We use the word extreme because we don't have a stronger word," Black said. He noted that even with state-of-the-art equipment at their disposal, firefighters were struggling to keep up.
When the first calls about a grass fire above a North Ogden subdivision came in the night of July 11, firefighting units were tied up at another fire near 1430 W. 3300 South in Ogden, where a two-story storage shed was burning down.
In North Ogden, though, strong winds were blowing the grass fire west toward homes, and it would take time for those firefighters to get to the opposite end of the county, when the strategy is to front-load an attack against such a fire. Within a minute of the first calls, two firefighters in a brush truck were on scene to start the offensive.
The North View Fire District started a new strategy this year of having two personnel in a brush truck on "fire patrol" through July and August, said district Capt. Brendon Hunt. They drive around keeping a watchful eye out for fires and anyone who might be breaking the fire restrictions, and can respond quickly to calls because they're already on the road.
In a similar vein, South Ogden Fire Department stationed firefighters near the Nature Park for the first time during the first week of July, said Battalion Chief Rick Rasmussen.
Local and state agencies also have expanded restrictions against open flames, fireworks, target shooting and the like to new levels this summer.
Every city along the East Bench has such a restriction east of Harrison Boulevard, but at least two cities expanded their restrictions much farther into their municipalities for the first time.
During the July 4 window for fireworks, Ogden Fire Department expanded restrictions to the river corridors, Fort Buenaventura and any vacant lots or areas of dry brush.
South Ogden also expanded its ban from the East Bench to anywhere within 300 feet of the Burch Creek area and the Nature Park, a first for the city, as far as Rasmussen can remember.
Though Riverdale is farther away from the mountains, it also added the southwest bench of the city to its Pioneer Day fire restrictions, which normally includes the area around the Weber River.
Black also urged people not to drive all-terrain vehicles over dry grass and cautioned against parking a vehicle over grass tall enough to brush up against the vehicle's bottom. The heat from the catalytic converter can ignite fires in such circumstances.
For now the hot and mostly dry weather continues this week with the National Weather Service predicting mostly sunny skies and highs in the 90s, but some moisture and a slight chance of thunderstorms return midweek.