Beginning last Friday at midnight, the Forest Service lifted its ban on open fires in all national forests in Utah, including the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache, Ashley, Fish Lake, Dixie and Manti-La Sal National Forests.
Fire bans are still in place in most cities and unincorporated areas in Summit County and County Manager Bob Jasper said he was not happy about the ban being lifted in the forests.
"Summit County is surrounded by National Forests and the risk of a wildfire is still present," he said. "It is confusing to residents if a fire ban is enforced in one area but not another. The law is out of sync with what we are trying to do, prevent a fire in our county like the two that burning only 40 miles away."
Jasper added that he wrote a letter to the U.S. Forest Service office in Salt Lake City urging them to keep the ban in place due to the dry conditions and high fire risk.
Summit County Council Member Sally Elliott agreed with Jasper, adding the Forest Service should have made some phone calls first and taken the County Council's opinion into consideration.
U.S. Forest Service Spokesperson Loyal Clark said before lifting the ban, they talked to numerous cities and counties and made sure all the national forests in the state were safe for open burns.
"We know other fire bans are still in place so we will be talking to visitors and telling them where they can and cannot have fires," she said. "We are making sure people know where the boundaries are and that they understand bans are still in effect in other places."
Clark added that the Forest Service has been testing the grasses and timber in the forests about once a week in order to monitor the moisture levels in the vegetation. Due to the recent rainstorms that have rolled through Utah, the forests were deemed to be "wet enough" to no longer be at high risk for wildfires.
"We were monitoring the moisture levels very closely because we wanted people to be able to have campfires before the season was over," she said. "Everyone has been so great about following the rules all summer and we have already heard back from families who are so excited to have a traditional campfire at least once this summer."
The Forest Service placed a ban on open fires on June 14, following Summit County's lead. Campers were still allowed to have fires in designated fire pits at developed campgrounds.
Jeff Schramm, District Ranger of the Heber-Kamas-Ranger District, said that even though visitors can now have campfires in undeveloped campsites and in the backcountry, everyone must still be aware of the risks.
"There are still dry branches on the ground and so far, everyone has been really careful about not leaving a fire unattended and making sure it is completely put out before leaving," he said. "We are urging everyone to make sure the coals of a fire are cool to the touch before walking away."
Fireworks and open fires are still banned in the unincorporated areas of Summit County and in Park City, Kamas, Coalville, Henefer and Francis.