TOOELE, Utah (AP) — With expectations high for a busy wildfire season, more than 500 firefighters from throughout Utah began a week of training Monday at the third annual Utah Wildfire Academy.
Instructors from Utah, Colorado and Arizona are teaching 27 different courses, from how topography affects fire behavior to setting up and managing the base camps from which the expected wildfires will be fought. Later in the week, classroom time will give way to outdoor workshops in which students will put their skills to work on a controlled fire.
Experts say the firefighters will need the training. The upcoming wildfire season figures to be busier than most for much of the Eastern Great Basin, which includes northwest Arizona, Utah, southwestern Wyoming and southern Idaho.
Last year, a total of 2,332 fires burned more than 325,000 acres within the basin. More than 230,000 acres were burned in Utah alone.
"We kind of expect a similar season (to last year) in many ways due to the long-term drought," said Teresa Rigby, spokeswoman for the academy and the Salt Lake City field office of the Bureau of Land Management.
This year's academy is putting special focus on the new National Incident Management System, or NIMS, the apparatus designed by the Department of Homeland Security to manage any emergency, disaster or terrorist attack.
Meanwhile, government officials are using the academy to unveil a new system of restrictions they claim will simplify rules for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Past restrictions have been complicated to explain, enforce and manage, Rigby said.
"There will be no more stages of restrictions," Rigby said. "Either there will be restrictions or there won't."
Campers should check with fire officials in the area where they plan to camp to see if restrictions are in place. Those restrictions would prohibit setting, building or using open fires, except campfires within approved fire pits and grills.
They also ban smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle, camp trailer, building, or in an area cleared of vegetation. Also prohibited is the use of fireworks and other incendiary devices on state or unincorporated private lands. Such acts are always banned on federal land.
Cooking devices fueled by liquid petroleum gas, propane, white gas and kerosene can be used as long as the device can be shut off.
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