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WILDFIRE SEASON IS WORST IN YEARS, AND IT’S EARLY YET

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With more than 30,000 acres burned to date, the Salt Lake District of the Bureau of Land Management is recording its worst wildfire season in recent history.

On Tuesday, fire crews battled a rangefire burning five miles south of the Dugway Proving Grounds gate in Tooele County. The blaze, investigated as arson, had singed 10,000 acres by the time fire-fighters contained it 2 a.m. Tuesday."The main thing being threatened is rangeland," said Vi Hillman, fire spokesperson for the BLM. Some 90 percent of the land is BLM, with the remainder private and state property.

"We're thinking it's man-caused and intentional," Hillman said. "We've had quite a few in the last week in the same area." Aircraft personnel from Dugway were flying in the region Monday and reported the fire started about 1 p.m. in five locations. The blaze is at least the third to burn within a 15-mile radius of the area since Memorial Day, she said.

Last week, 8,000 acres were destroyed and campgrounds evacuated due to a fire in the Davis Mountain region, located five miles west of Dugway in Skull Valley. That fire is also under investigation as man-caused.

Before the mid-June Davis Mountain fire, the district's burned acreage totaled more than the previous three summers' worth combined, Hillman said. Due to three wet winters and a dry spring, the state's natural fuels are ripe for an active wildfire season.

"We're not even into our lightning season yet - and we know we'll have fires then," Hillman said. "We're in extreme fire danger. It is so flashy, it just goes fast."

Fires this week and the others before them have the left the grasslands of Tooele County blackened and charred for miles, Hillman said.

A lightning fire burned nearly 9,000 acres of government land 12 miles north of Dugway the week prior to Memorial Day. Winds up to 30 mph quickly spread the fire from its ignition point near the White Rocks area of Skull Valley. During the same period, a second fire burned nearly 100 acres near Coyote Springs, south of Simpson Springs.