It’s hard to imagine that just two summers ago, temperatures in June and July were breaking decades-old heat records across Utah.
The National Weather Service reported this summer had a mild start with highs sticking around high 80s and low 90s due to a substantial winter snowpack and continuous spring rain showers.
The temperatures are even expected to drop next week to high 80s with sunny skies and clear nights.
Water levels in reservoirs throughout the state are nearly 100% full, including Utah Lake, which is less than a foot away from capacity, according to data from the Central Utah Water Conservancy District.
But the higher temperatures also bring a higher risk for wildfires, said Jason Curry with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
Fire crews have responded to almost 300 fire reports so far this year, although almost all have been contained before reaching large sizes.
“We’re on pace for a normal fire season in terms of ignitions, but we’re way ahead of the game over last year in terms of fuel moisture, especially at high elevations,” Curry explained.
Heavier fuels like trees or continuous brush near the summits are less likely to catch fire than lighter fuels like grasses in the foothills, he said. It also means spot fires are less likely to occur if any large fires do start.
Overall, crews usually battle between 1,100 and 1,200 fires every year, but June and July are particularly hazardous months.
“As we move from June into July, typically that’s our highest percentage in terms of human-caused fires,” Curry said.
The National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook on Friday warning about possible thunderstorms during the weekend.
“Cloud to ground lightning and gusty/erratic winds are the main concerns. Given the hot and dry conditions, this may lead to new fire starts,” the report stated.
Curry encouraged community members to practice fire safety techniques like securing tow chains and not using exploding targets during target practice in dry, grassy areas.
“We have enough lightning-caused fires throughout the state,” he said. “We don’t need any more caused by bad behavior.”