Despite an above-average year for snowpack levels, Summit County Emergency Manager Kevin Callahan says residents can most likely expect a "normal" wildfire season this year, as the water supply is forecasted to be down by about 25 percent of normal.
"As of right now, we're expecting it to be a normal fire season. We will have a better update by the first of May," Callahan said. "It's one of these El Niño/La Niña things where [forecasters] can't tell which way the weather is going to flow."
Callahan said that, according to National Weather Service Hydrologist Brian McInerney, snowpack levels in the Weber River Basin are at 111 percent of normal. However, the water supply forecast from April 1 to June 30 is expected to be at 75 percent of normal.
If melting occurs earlier in the spring when the ground is still frozen, snow runoff flows into reservoirs and rivers, Callahan pointed out. If melting occurs during warmer temperatures, the soil absorbs a greater amount of the runoff.
Summit County Fire Warden Bryce Boyer said that Predictive Services is saying that the county's wildfire risk is "normal" to "above normal," though that depends on how much spring precipitation the county receives.
Even though 2014 is expected to be a normal wildfire season, Callahan added that last year was normal as well and the county sustained the roughly 2,000-acre Rockport fire in August.
Predictive Services also says that there is a potential for a "cooler, wetter trend" to move into Utah and eastern Idaho sometime in June, delaying the usual "peak fire season" until late June and July.
"We're not in terrible shape. We're going to have a decent amount of water coming down [from the mountains]," Callahan said. "Hopefully, if we don't have a very hot summer, we're going to be OK."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts slightly above average temperatures for the majority of northern Utah. For portions of Summit County, the seasonal drought outlook from March 20 to June 30 is expected to "persist or intensify."
New this wildfire season is an ordinance passed by Summit County which prohibits "reckless burning," which includes failing to notify Sheriff's dispatch of or before lighting any controlled open burn occurring between April 1 and October 31. For those living in unincorporated areas of the county, the following restrictions apply, according to summitwildfires.com:
For those living in incorporated areas of the county (Coalville, Francis, Echo, Henefer, Kamas, Oakley), the following burn restrictions apply:
Residents in the Park City Fire District should visit pcfd.org/permits to view information on burning and permits.