Open fires no longer allowed on state and unincorporated land in Utah, order says

About 20,000 acres have burned this year amid hot weather and a severe drought.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Firefighters and utility workers climb up a hill to check the power poles, near the area where the Bear Fire burns in the mountains northwest of Helper on Wednesday, June 9, 2021.

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People camping on state land or living in unincorporated parts of their counties can’t start open fires under a new state order that took effect on Thursday.

Fires are allowed outdoors only if they are in a permanent fire pit either at a public facility like a campground, or at a private home that has running water. A makeshift fire pit made of rocks or a portable steel ring doesn’t count, according to Jamie Barnes, interim director of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. The order does not impact cities and other municipal governments, which get to make their own fire rules, according to Barnes.

The order also bans welding metal and smoking on dry vegetation. People can no longer use ATVs, motorcycles or chainsaws unless they have an approved and working spark arrestor.

Violating the rules can lead to up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Barnes said the state is hoping people will use their heads to prevent wildfires by taking steps like securing chains on trailers and paying attention to their equipment.

“Our greatest concern is for firefighter safety and keeping the firefighters safe, bringing them home to their families and also for public safety,” she said.

The state doesn’t usually enact statewide fire bans, according to the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. Restrictions are typically implemented in different areas of the state based on wildfire danger through the season.

Gov. Spencer Cox banned fireworks on state and unincorporated land earlier this week.

Utah is in a severe drought and has been experiencing unseasonably hot weather. Wildfires have already started flaring up throughout the state, leading to evacuations in some areas. About 20,000 acres of land have burned already this year, according to numbers from the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.