According to a press release issued by the Bureau of Land Management’s Color Country and Arizona Strip divisions in cooperation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs; Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands; the Dixie National Forest and Zion National Park a Stage 1 fire restriction was put in place as of 12 a.m. Wednesday.
The release cited the recent dry weather as a catalyst for the new restrictions, and reported that, “restrictions do not apply to incorporated towns and cities except for state owned lands within incorporated towns and cities.”
Specific areas of concern listed were: unincorporated privately owned and all state owned lands in Washington County, Dixie National Forest, Pine Valley Ranger District, any lands managed by the National Park Service including Zion National Park, and all BLM managed lands located within the Washington County boundaries that are part of the “Color Country District”.
Stage 1 restrictions require campers only to use fire in a designated pit found at a developed campsite. Approved fire pits look like “permanently constructed cement or metal” rings, and are sometimes accompanied by picnic tables. The Watchman Campground and South Campground in Zion National Park however, may not have campfires even in approved fire rings, because the risk of fire is too great “due to the abundance of highly flammable cheat grass”.
Fireworks, tracer ammunition and any other pyrotechnic devices will be forbidden from use during the fire restrictions; as well as the cutting, welding or grinding any type of metal in areas of dry vegetation. Recreational shooters should be aware that exploding targets used for practice will not be permitted until the restrictions are lifted.
Stoves and grills solely fueled by either liquid petroleum or propane will be permitted at most or all locations. Additional restrictions vary from one area to another, so officials recommended checking with whoever is in charge of the planned recreational area to understand the rules associated with that specific destination site.
Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Land Southern Utah Fire Management Officer Mike Melton said that this is the time of the year to be on high alert for wildfires. He said that many people are unaware of a few simple safety precautions that could make a huge difference when camping in the Utah wilderness.
He said that there should always be at least 10 gallons of water available on-site dedicated specifically to fire suppression, and a shovel nearby for the same purpose.
Melton said that drowning campfires before leaving them is of utmost importance – the fire pit should be cold to the touch before leaving it. He said many people are unaware of the possible legal ramifications involved in a fire that starts from leftover coals. The costs could be tens of thousands of dollars Melton said.
“Where we can identify those responsible parties they are cited for those offenses,” Melton said. “They’re normally class B misdemeanors, and the penalty could involve paying the costs of suppression, and that could be a lot of money.”
BLM Public Information Specialist Rachel Tueller said they were trying to encourage public land visitors to use propane or liquid petroleum in areas where fires are permitted, because it will help to reduce the risk of igniting the abundant fuels of dry tree limbs and grass throughout the region.
“So then there isn’t an open flame or a spark,” she said. “Because a lot of times what you see is that even the most benign or innocuous little fire can – if the wind picks up – then takes a tiny little ember and wisps it away to these dry fuels, and then that’s a recipe for disaster.”
Up to date, area-specific information is available at www.utahfireinfo.gov