Little Pass Fire believed human-caused; officials urge caution due to drought conditions

Little Pass Fire. Photo: BLM

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah, April 5, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — The Little Pass Fire, now believed to be human-caused, remains at 70% contained Monday morning after first being reported at 2 p.m. Sunday.

“Resources will be seeking solid containment before the expected wind event on Monday April 5th,” a Sunday night tweet from the Tooele Fire Warden says.

“Fire operations will focus on southern flank today, which is where the fire is still active. BLM, FS, and FFSL resources on-scene today,” the Monday morning tweet from Utah Fire info says. Crews worked through the night to contain the blaze, an earlier tweet says.

“The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) West Desert District and Utah Forestry, Fire, and State Lands (FFSL) has seen an increase in human-caused wildfires early this year,” says a news release shared Monday by those entities.

Little Pass Fire. Photo: BLM

Since mid-February, 13 human-caused fires have occurred, making up 100% of northern Utah’s wildfires in 2021. This year’s lack of precipitation in the West Desert and early increase in human-caused fires is concerning for wildfire officials, law enforcement, and land managers, Geoff Wallin, BLM West Desert District Fire Management Officer, said in the prepared statement.

“Vegetation is drying out very quickly after each precipitation event and becoming receptive to ignition only a couple of days later, resulting in high fire potential conditions.”

Brett Ostler, FFSL Fire Management officer, urged the public to heed all fire prevention recommendations and orders.

“Last year, 154 of the 170 wildfires across all suppression agencies in northern Utah were human-caused; a grim statistic that we do not want to repeat,” he said in the prepared statement.

Eight of the 13 fires in Utah’s West Desert were caused by target shooting and five of the eight were determined to be caused by exploding targets. Possession or use of any kind of explosives, incendiary or chemical devices, pyrotechnics or fireworks, or exploding targets are prohibited year-round on all BLM-managed public lands. Many counties have similar prohibitive laws that apply to State lands. The human-caused cases are being pursued for criminal charges and/or cost recovery.

Dry conditions due to low precipitation this winter, increased public use, and mats of unburned fuel from last year are resulting in above-normal fire potential. The 2020 fire season experienced a similar start with respect to precipitation and saw numerous early season ignitions and large fire growth as early as mid-April. On March 17, 2021, Governor Cox declared a state of emergency and issued an executive order due to the entire state being in moderate drought and 90% of the state experiencing “extreme” drought.

To prevent a wildfire, the agencies say the public should:

  • Fully extinguish campfires and avoid building fires when winds are 15 mph or higher
  • Choose a target shooting backstop free of rocks and dry grass – any bullet hitting rocks can create a spark.
  • Avoid target shooting in during hot, dry, and windy conditions
  • Know the laws and regulations per county that prohibit the use of fireworks, paper lanterns, exploding targets, and other incendiary devices. Such are prohibited year-round on BLM-managed lands.
  • Seasonal Fire Prevention Orders and Fire Restrictions come in effect when conditions warrant such actions.
  • Stay up-to-date on local orders and restrictions.
  • Avoid cutting, welding, or grinding of metal in areas of dry vegetation
  • Check to make sure trailer chains are not dragging and are secure to prevent sparks
  • Fully extinguish and properly dispose of cigarettes
  • Avoid parking a hot vehicle over dry grass
  • Maintain tires, wheels, and bearing on trailers to prevent mechanical failure

Public land visitors are also reminded to be prepared with a shovel, water, and fire extinguisher. Statewide fire restrictions and prevention orders can be viewed here.

Little Pass Fire. Photo: BLM

For additional information, please contact the BLM West Desert District Office, at 801-977-4300.

People who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Relay Service (FRS) at 1-800-877-8339 to leave a message or question. The FRS is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Replies are provided during normal business hours.

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