With several significant wildfires blazing in Utah and no improvement in drought conditions expected, state officials have imposed new restrictions and cautions on fireworks, campfires, target shooting and agricultural burns.
The state forester and the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands issued an order Tuesday banning fireworks on all state and unincorporated private lands and trusts lands.
And on Wednesday, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources announced temporary bans on campfires and recreational firearm shooting on the 146 wildlife management areas across the state.
Campfires of any kind, including portable fire pits, are not allowed on any of the WMAs during the temporary ban, the division said in a news release. Fireworks and explosives are never allowed on WMAs. The bans will be in place until conditions improve.
Officials said they are concerned that habitat, including winter ranges and feeding grounds, especially for big game, would be at higher risk for wildfires without the bans.
The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, meanwhile, urged farmers with burn permits to be especially cautious with their controlled fires this summer or avoid them altogether.
“Farmers and ranchers are being greatly affected by the extreme drought conditions this year,” said Craig Buttars, agriculture commissioner, in the announcement. “Feed for livestock will be scarce, which is why it will be even more pertinent that we have as much rangeland as possible. Wildfires would be severely detrimental to Utah’s farmers and ranchers.”
Locally, the Ogden Fire Department last week issued fireworks and open burning restrictions earlier than normal because of extreme drought conditions that deepen wildfire dangers.
Firefighters were battling several significant fires around the state Wednesday, including an 835-acre human-caused fire near East Canyon Reservoir.
State fire officials said on Twitter the fire had not been contained and State Road 66 remained closed. Ten nearby homes were evacuated Tuesday.
Utah Fire Info spokesperson Kait Webb said Wednesday that Utah has seen 326 wildfires so far this year, 90% of them human-caused and burning more than 12,000 acres.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service reported last week that the entire state remained in drought, including 62% in exceptional drought. In May, rainfall was 42% of normal, the agency said.