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Utah governor issues firearms appeal over fires

Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Friday due to blaze officials say was accidentally sparked by target shooters.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert.
Image: AP Photo/Jim Urquhart/PA

THE GOVERNOR of Utah has called for people to exercise greater caution when shooting in the countryside in a bid to prevent fires being sparked in dry conditions by guns.

State residents are also being asked to refrain from using fireworks throughout the exceptionally dry conditions.

Governor Gary R Herbert’s appeal comes as state fire agencies battle serious wildfires which have caused serious damage. Around 1,500 homes 60km south of Salt Lake City were evacuated on Friday as a large fire spread towards them. Officials say the blaze was sparked accidentally by target shooters.

“The entire state is tinder dry right now and resources can only stretch so far,” Herbert said.

“While we may not be able to prevent those fires caused by natural forces, we must do all possible to prevent human-caused fires, encouraging local jurisdictions to appropriately regulate use of fireworks and firearms if necessary.

“State agencies will continue to work proactively with local and federal partners in fighting current fires and preventing future flares, but in the meantime, let us also work together to protect life and property under these dry conditions.”

Fire management officer for Utah’s Ashley National Forest, which suffered severe fires of up to 250 acres in size earlier this month, said recently that extreme fire conditions in the area have not been seen “so early in the season for several years”.

Three large wildfires are currently being tracked by state fire agencies. The one in the middle of the map below is a 16,500-acre bushfire about 6km from the town of Delta. The cause of the fire is under investigation and authorities say it is about 80 per cent contained.

(Map via Utah Fire Departments)

- Additional reporting by the AP

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