With a large amount of invasive weeds feeding Utah wildfires, officials say Utahns can play a role in preventing more fires.
Jessica Gardetto, the spokesperson for the National Interagency Fire Center, said fire prevention comes in a variety of forms such as fully extinguishing a campfire, obeying fire restrictions and mindful vehicle use.
“A lot of people don’t realize that your exhaust can reach up to thousands of degrees,” Gardetto said, “and all it takes is for you to stop over some dry grass and your exhaust can actually start that grass on fire and then you can be driving away and not even realizing that you had started a fire.”
Much of the dry grass and invasive weeds in Utah and the Western United States is called cheatgrass. The grass and other non-native weeds grow close together, allowing fire to spread more quickly.
Gardetto said a stronger wet season led to more grass this year. But as the summer heat sets in, Gardetto said the drying grasses create a high risk for wildfires.
“For example, the Brian Head fire in Utah is an example of that,” Gardetto said. “They got some decent snowfall, but the fuel is present and it’s been hot and dry and windy. And so when that happens, we can still have a fire season.”
Gardetto said the next summer following a wildfire leads to even more grass and weeds in that area and nearby residents should be careful.