Utah Prepares for Worst as Arizona's Telegraph, Mescal Fires Grow

Utah is preparing for the worst and announced on Wednesday that it is banning campfires and target shooting, citing wildfire concerns as two wildfires continue to grow in Arizona.

"Due to extreme drought and wildfire danger, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is temporarily banning campfires and recreational target shooting with a firearm on its 146 wildlife management areas (WMAs) across the state," the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) wrote in an announcement on Wednesday.

The announcement stated that while target shooting with a firearm is temporarily prohibited in the state, residents are still allowed to target shoot in three established shooting ranges, which include Big Hollow WMA, Fillmore WMA and Hobble Creek WMA. The announcement also notes that "legal possession of a firearm and hunting are not affected," by the temporary ban.

In the announcement, DWR Habitat Section Chief Eric Edgley said, "With the extreme dry conditions, any spark can start a fire."

"With firearm target shooting, sparks from metal targets aren't the only threat—a bullet or other projectile glancing off a rock is all it takes to cause a spark and a fire," Edgley said, while noting that last year, two wildfires were sparked on WMAs from target shooting with firearms.

"Obviously, campfires and fireworks also create sparks that can cause wildfires," Edgley said.

DWR Director Rory Reynolds said in the announcement: "Significant resources go toward improving the habitat in these wildlife and waterfowl management areas to make them more beneficial for a variety of wildlife species, which is why these proactive, preventative measures are so important."

According to the DWR, as of June 9, 330 wildfires have been reported across the state, including 284 that were caused by humans. "The DWR's temporary ban is being issued in an effort to decrease the risk of wildfires being started," the announcement said.

While Utah is also facing drought conditions, the announcement on Wednesday comes as Arizona is facing two large wildfires that have burned over 140,000 acres.

According to data from InciWeb, the national wildfire information system, the Telegraph Fire, near the Globe Ranger District, has burned approximately 80,822 acres and is 21 percent contained. Just East of the Telegraph fire, Arizona is also battling the Mescal fire, which has burned approximately 70,066 acres and is 23 percent contained.

The fire in Arizona has forced numerous residents to evacuate as fire officials continue to try to contain each. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued an emergency declaration in response to the Telegraph and Mescal fires.

Newsweek was directed to the announcement by DWR after reaching out for comment.

A firefighter puts out burning embers in the Fresno County community of Bald Mountain, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, on September 11, 2020 Frederic J. Brown/Getty