Utah Fire Marshal Gives Surprising Update on Human-Caused Wildfires

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Utah Fire Marshal Ted Black announced this week that human-caused wildfires have dropped from 830 to 450 in the past two years. 

While speaking to KSL about the messages concerning wildfires in the state, Black stated, “People like a message that’s a little bit funny, that… is entertaining and goes a long way in helping people understand they need to do more.”

Kelly Wickens, a wildfire prevention officer with Utah’s Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands, also spoke about the ads that promote the prevention of human-caused fires. “I think we have all seen the devastation fire causes. People lose their homes. They lose everything they’ve lived for and it’s gone.” 

Both experts revealed that in 2020, there were 830 human-caused wildfires. After that fire season, Utah created the Fire Sense campaign. This is due to dry drought conditions becoming worse. However, one year later, the fires went from 830 to 525. So far in 2022, there have only been 450. “We have seen significant changes in human-caused starts,” Wickens shared. 

Along with the reduction in the amount of human-caused fires, there was also a reduction in the funds spent on fighting the fires. Utah has reportedly spent $5 million this year. In 2020, it spent $27 million. “The message here is, the citizens of Utah have stepped up in a big way,” Black continued. “They’ve done a great job.”

Utah Governor Urged Fire Safety After 23 Human-Caused Wildfires Sparked One Weekend 

Earlier this summer, Utah Governor, Spencer Cox, urged fire safety after 23 human-caused wildfires sparked in one weekend. 

Deseret News reported that the 23 human-caused wildfires torched more than 13,000 acres. This is twice the number of acres that had burned prior to the weekend. 

“Fortunately, [with] the great work of our incredible firefighters, we were able to get most of those [wildfires] out,” Cox explained. “But we still have [six] that are still burning.”

Cox further cautioned that with temperatures continued to hover in the triple digits without any rain in sight, The state government encouraged every Utahn to act responsibly when it comes to fire prevention. “The most important fire is the one you don’t start.” 

At that time, there were only 385 human-caused wildfires in the state. Those had torched a total of 6,373 acres. Jamie Barnes, the state forester and the division’s director, explained that Utah’s vegetation is “critically dry” at the moment. He then moment that even “the slightest thing” can spark a new wildfire.

Cox went on to share that every new fire can strain federal resources. He further noted the strain is especially important because there are only so many teams available to fight fires. Barnes concluded the fires may place a strain on state and local resources as well.