Utah Sees Most Wildfires in 15 Years

August 28, 2018

The 370 structures burned in Utah wildfires so far this year is more than the previous five years combined and the most in the last 15 years.

Structures lost to Utah wildfires in the last five years combined would not reach a third of the devastation seen this year, according to data from the National Interagency Coordination Center.

Wildfires in Utah destroy an average of about 49 structures a year, the Deseret News reported . But dry conditions and one devastating wildfire in Dollar Ridge that has consumed 363 structures have made 2018 stand out.

“If not for that one fire, obviously the numbers would be far, far lower,” Utah Division of Forestry spokesman Jason Curry said. “That fire moved very quickly – as many fires have this year.”

The conditions are because of a low snowpack during the winter that has led to an extreme drought, Curry said.

While investigators still believe the wildfire in Dollar Ridge, which has cost an estimated $20.9 million to extinguish, was started by human causes, the case is still ongoing. Investigators do not have any leads and are keeping their options open, Curry said.

Utah wildfires this year have consumed nearly 250 square miles (648 square kilometers) – the second-most devastating year in the past five years in terms of acres burned.

Utah comes second only to California in terms of structures lost, which has lost 1,149 structures so far this year, according to Forest Service estimates.

But after the fires are put out and the destruction estimated, there is not much that state and federal fire officials can do for those who have lost property, Curry said.

“Our mandate is to deal with wildfire,” Curry said. “We prevent, we prepare for and we suppress wildfire, and beyond that, we don’t really come into play.”

Over 133,000 Utah homes are at high or extreme risk from wildfire, according to risk-assessment firm Verisk – about 14 percent of all homes.

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