OGDEN — While local officials have been preaching fire safety throughout much of the summer, Utah’s biggest public land owner is also joining the chorus.
The Bureau of Land Management’s Salt Lake Field Office — which manages lands in Salt Lake, Utah, Tooele, Box Elder, Cache, Rich, Weber, Morgan, Davis, Summit, and Wasatch counties — has implemented fire restrictions on all agency-owned lands in the Northern Utah area.
The BLM’s Fire Prevention Order, which spokesperson Hannah Lenkowski said was initiated due to extremely dry vegetation throughout Northern Utah, includes a host of restrictions.
The order prohibits use of any steel core, jacketed and tipped ammunition of any caliber until Sept. 30. Campfires are off limits, unless they are lit in BLM fire grates at developed campgrounds, or within fully enclosed stoves or grills. Chainsaws, off-road vehicles and other items with combustion engines are prohibited unless they’re equipped with spark arresters.
Smoking cigarettes is also restricted, allowed only in an enclosed vehicle, building or a developed recreation site clear of flammable material. And as is protocol throughout the rest of the year, explosives, incendiary or chemical devices, fireworks and exploding targets are also illegal.
According to a report from Utah State University Wildland Resources Researcher Ellie McGinty, the BLM is Utah’s largest land administrator and oversees more than 22.8 million acres of land, a number that equals approximately 42% of the land area in the state.
Much of that land is in Utah’s west desert area, with a large portion in western Box Elder County.
BLM West Desert Fire Management Officer Geoff Wallin said his district has seen a 30% increase in human-caused fires and said more than 60,000 acres of BLM-managed lands have already burned.
“We are seeing fuels at critical dryness and fire behavior that spreads very quickly, which can threaten the public and our firefighters,” Wallin said in a statement. “We urge the public to take notice of fire officials’ warnings and adhere to fire restrictions to help prevent large, catastrophic human-caused fires.”
The Great Basin Coordination Center, which coordinates the mobilization of resources for wildland fire and other public lands incidents in Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming, says drought conditions will remain through the remainder of the month, continuing to dry out vegetation and make for more dangerous fire fuels.
Jessica Wade, BLM state fire management officer, says the number of people recreating on BLM-administered lands typically spikes significantly during Pioneer Day weekend and throughout the summer. The agency is expecting the same uptick, this weekend, if not more. Wade said the agency is urging visitors to be diligent and follow the prevention order. In addition to adhering to the rules, the BLM also encourages public land visitors to be prepared with a shovel, water, and fire extinguisher.
Several Northern Utah cities have already instituted geographical restrictions on fires and fireworks. Eastern cities with mountain foothill areas inside their boundaries have instituted bans, but so have cities further west, prohibiting fires or fireworks in places like open fields, vacant lots, wooded areas and brush-covered hillsides.
State law allows fireworks between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. July 2-5 and July 22-25. On July 4 and 24, the legal hours are extended to midnight.
Ogden Fire Marshall Kevin Brown and Layton Fire Marshall Doug Bitton previously told the Standard-Examiner that fire conditions are as bad as they’ve been in years.