Fire threat low for southern Utah

Water » The region has 238 percent of normal precipitation this year.
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Moisture, and a lot of it, is expected to keep much of southern Utah's fire danger below or at normal levels this year.

Fire managers with the Color Country Interagency Fire Agency gathered in St. George on Friday to discuss what to expect this year on the potential fire situation from May through August.

Walter Burdick, fire management officer for Color Country, said southwestern Utah and the Arizona Strip, the portion of Arizona south of the state border to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, has 238 percent of normal precipitation this year.

Color Country agency is a united effort that shares resources of members, including the Bureau of Land Management, Dixie National Forest, Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, National Park Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Much of the water, Burdick said, is snowpack in the mountains that is slowly beginning to trickle down, but should last through early June.

He said his predictions are based on meteorological reports compiled by the Predictive Service for the Eastern Great Basin Coordination Center that is part of the National Interagency Coordination Center for wildfires.

Burdick said while northern Utah has only up to 95 percent of normal water, the higher figures for southern Utah means fire potential is below normal in many areas.

He said the deep snowpack and a cool pattern for southern Utah means it will take grasses longer to green up.

He also said precipitation through May will possibly continue to increase, adding to the snowpack.

Snows have flattened much of the carryover grasses from last year that makes them less likely to spread fire than standing grasses.

The highest potential for fire is at lower elevations, and fire threats will move from southern geographic regions to northern regions, Burdick said.

In the meantime, fire managers plan on several prescribed burns in southern Utah, as conditions allow.

Park service spokesman David Eaker said several prescribed burns are planned for southwestern Utah, including a fire of more than 10,000 acres in Beaver County and 2,850-acre fire in Pocket Mesa area of Zion National Park.

Eaker said prescribed fires are ignited by land managers to decrease risks to life, property and other resources on public and private lands.

Fire threat low for southern Utah