BLM experts predict 2022 Utah fire season is about a month away
Johnny Trujillo, 53, talks about battling the fire that destroyed both his sister’s home and her truck in the evacuation zone near Mora, NM on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, where firefighters are battling Hermit’s Peak and Calf Canyon fire for weeks. . Many residents resisted evacuation orders choosing to stay and protect their homes against the fury of nature. Weather described as potentially historic is in store for New Mexico on Saturday, May 7 and for the next several days, as the largest fire in the United States eats away at drier mountainsides. (Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP)
(Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP)
SALT LAKE CITY — Although not yet in Utah, fire season has begun in neighboring states. Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona are all in firefighting mode. Across the country, 20 million Americans face red queer fire warnings.
“Fortunately for Utah, we’re just north of that. Typically, Arizona and New Mexico are about a month to a month and a half ahead of us,” said Basil Newmerzhycky of the Bureau of Land Management Predictive Services.
A red flag warning is issued by the National Weather Service. This is a short-term warning for a critical weather event, typically wind gusts over 30 mph with dry combustibles or dry lightning that could pose a threat to rapidly growing fires.
Currently in New Mexico, 308 square miles have been burned by wildfires and 170 homes have been lost. This particular fire, Newmerzhycky said, is concerning.
“It’s quite concerning because in the high elevations of southern Utah, where we have similar dry conditions, low snowpack, and heavier fuels – we’re talking about the mountains outside of Cedar City – the concern is that when we hit our dry pattern in early June, we might see conditions not too different from that.
Does the rain help anything?
Utahns started the week with rain and, in some cases, snow — which is good news, Newmerzhycky said.
“It helps us in the northern half of the state. These cooler shower systems will mainly cover the northern regions.
“They won’t bring as much precipitation to the south,” he said, “but what they will bring are cooler temperatures and higher humidity which tends to dampen the short-term fire activity.”
When Newmerzhycky looks ahead to fire season here in Utah, he predicts firefighters will be busy.
“We expect above normal fire potential for southwestern Utah by the end of May and spreading through much of southern Utah through June.”
The good news for Utah, he said, is the potential for an active monsoon season in July.
“Which would reduce fire activity in the southern half of the state. At this point, we expect above normal fire activity across much of northern and northeastern Utah.