State firefighters observe increased fire activity on roadsides | News, Sports, Work
4 mins read

State firefighters observe increased fire activity on roadsides | News, Sports, Work

State firefighters observe increased fire activity on roadsides | News, Sports, Work

Photo provided by Utah Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands

Flames and smoke from the 2023 Washington County, Utah, wildfire.

Fireworks season is in full swing in Utah, and with it comes heightened concern about the potential for human-caused fires across the state. While pyrotechnics are front and center this time of year, the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands (or FFSL) has also seen an increase in activity along roadways, as well as fires related to burning agricultural waste.

In 2024, the number of forest fires caused by motor vehicles and other equipment will increase.

Karl Hunt, a spokesman for FFSL, told the Standard-Examiner that there were a number of fires caused by equipment and vehicles over the long holiday weekend (July 3-7).

“Equipment-related fires were our most common cause this weekend,” Hunt said. “Equipment is a pretty broad category, but motor vehicles are below that, and we had six vehicle-related fires. So about half of those equipment-related fires were motor vehicle-related.”

The FFSL release last week noted that as of July 2, there have been 56 wildfires started by motor vehicles in the Beehive State, dating back to Memorial Day weekend and the start of the summer travel season. And while current hot, dry weather conditions are a big factor in those numbers, the cool, wet springs of recent years have set the stage for an uptick in activity.

“We’ve had some really good years for water, which is great — the state needed it,” Hunt said. “But along with those really good years for water, there’s been an increase in our good fuels. Those are some really good grasses and shrubs that we see at lower elevations and along the roads. That’s really grown. And because of our lower fire activity the last few years, that hasn’t burned. So we’ve got that bigger fuel load this year.”

In other words, the landscape is full of material that can burn and contribute to the spread of fire.

“And they are ready to ignite because of the excessive heat and dry conditions we have experienced over the last month here in the state.”

Keeping tow chains off the road and secure is a key preventative step you can take to reduce the risk of a fire starting. Hunt says vehicle maintenance can also play a role.

“Any trailer, whether it’s a boat trailer, a camper trailer, make sure it’s properly maintained; that its tires are properly inflated and not worn out. Same thing with a vehicle; make sure it’s regularly maintained,” he said.

“All of these factors can contribute to something happening on a journey. We want to reduce that because when you have an accident on the road, you tend to pull over to the side of the road, which is where a lot of these better fuels are now.”

Since the beginning of the year through July 2, Utah has also had 72 wildfires caused by agricultural or debris fires, according to the FFSL, 31 of which occurred during the closed fire season (which runs from June 1 to October 31). Those legally operating fires during the closed fire season must notify the appropriate public safety response center in the jurisdiction where the fire will occur.

Under state law, anyone who sets fire to a forest, brush, range, field, cropland or pile of debris without obtaining (and strictly following) written permission is guilty of a Class C misdemeanor.

Burning is also not allowed when a red flag warning is in effect, meaning high temperatures, low humidity and stronger winds.

To report a fire, call 911 immediately. For more information, visit


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