SALT LAKE CITY — Instead of facing a wildfire-prone season fueled by substantial growth in vegetation from a snowy year, state and federal authorities marked the conclusion of three successive years with decreasing wildfire numbers.

Scene of a wildfire that burned 7.5 acres near 5000 West and 1000 South in Cedar City, Utah, June 26, 2023 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Data from 2020 to 2023 shows that human-caused wildfires were reduced by 52% from the first year and another 56% over the past two years, even though factors like extreme drought and high fuels were expected to contribute to increased fire risk.

“Fire Sense has helped us significantly reduce human-caused wildfires in Utah,” Gov. Spencer Cox said. “Neighboring states have also noticed the campaign’s success. Fire Sense is a great example of how Utah continues to take the lead on important issues that impact each and every one of us.”

Fire officials with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands held a ceremony at the Utah State Capitol to recognize the efforts of state and federal leaders who have played a vital role in guiding Utah residents to exercise Fire Sense when they recreate outdoors, use fireworks, burn debris and use firearms.

According to a Utah Department of Natural Resources media release, the latest data shows wildfires decreases in Utah:

2020 – 1,176
2021 – 570
2022 – 466
2023 – 288

In response to the alarming increase in the number of human-caused wildfires in 2020, Cox took a bold step to launch a comprehensive statewide public awareness campaign. The resulting Fire Sense campaign aimed to prevent and reduce human-caused wildfires by bringing attention to behaviors that spark wildfires.

“We are proud of the work our fire staff and prevention program has put in to raise awareness around the impact people have on wildfire starts,” said Jamie Barnes, Director/State Forester for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. “People are responsible for every nine out of 10 wildfires across the country, but we have cut that number in half.”

L-R: Steve Wright, Boncom; Gov. Spencer Cox; Chris Delaney, Bureau of Land Management; Joel Ferry, Utah Department of Natural Resources; Lucas Minton, US Forest Service, Salt Lake City, Utah, Sept. 2023 | Photo courtesy Utah DNR, St. George News

In Sept. 2023, Fire Sense received the bronze-level Smokey Bear Award for its impact on fire prevention at a state level. Due to the success of the Fire Sense program, the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands presented a golden Pulaski to Governor Cox for his department’s continued support of Fire Sense and fire prevention efforts in Utah.

The division also presented a golden Pulaski to representatives of the interagency partners who have been instrumental in the success of the Fire Sense campaign over the last three years.

A Pulaski tool is a versatile tool that combines the functions of an axe and a mattock. It can chop and cleave wood, as well as excavate and grub soil. This tool is commonly used by wildland firefighters. It was named after Ed Pulaski, a hero who gained fame during the Big Blowup of 1910.

Fire Sense is in its third year, managed by the Utah Department of Natural Resources in collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, the National Park Service and other state agencies.

Through behavioral change, communication, media and strong public/private partnerships, Fire Sense has achieved impressive success by reducing human-caused wildfires, even receiving national and state recognition from agencies for best practices in wildfire prevention.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.