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Utah officials are predicting an average wildfire season this year, but the increased snowpack in the north half of the state also means more of fire's fuel: grass.

The June fire risk for the mountain ranges is projected to be below average, but the potential for large fires will increase as the state gets hotter, according to Basil Newmerzhycky, a meteorologist with the federal Great Basin Coordination Center, which works with the Bureau of Land Management to publish the state's wildfire outlook.

"Once the snowpack leaves, we have a chance of getting normal, large fires like we normally get in the Wasatch chain or in the Uintas," Newmerzhycky said.

Deeper snowpacks could mean a delayed start to the fire season in the mountains, he said.

"It has been a number of years since we've seen this amount of grass that we have this year, due to the precipitation that we got this winter," said Jessica Wade, the BLM fire management officer for Utah.

Newmerzhycky anticipates a heat wave to hit and dry out the grass, he said, increasing its risk for burning.

He anticipates that the drying will come in late July or early August, but "wildfire season has already started and there will be more to come," said Brian Cottam, director of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

State fire officials have seen a trend of longer, more intense fire seasons.

"Overall, the trend is up in terms of earlier start and later finish. The fire season is getting longer, and fire activity is more intense," said Jason Curry, Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands spokesman.

As Utahns start their camping season, wildfire officials encouraged them to make sure their fires are completely extinguished — if they're too hot to touch, they're too hot to leave.

Due to higher-than-average amounts of grass, people need to be extra cognizant about where they're target-shooting and pulling their cars over, according to Wade.

"Everyone needs to be vigilant this year," Wade said.

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