Utah law targets fire starters
If you start a wildfire in Utah, you’ll have to foot the bill for fighting it, according to a new law. The measure would make people who start a fire, either intentionally or carelessly, liable for potentially thousands of dollars in costs, according to the (Utah) Daily Herald.
Senate Bill 38 has been approved by the Utah legislature and is awaiting the governor’s signature, to go into effect in June. The bill clarifies an existing law with similar provisions but expands them to cover fires started on federal and private property as well as state lands.
Supporters say the measure will help the state recoup the cost of fighting numerous fires every year that are started by people. Opponents say the law is unnecessary and unenforceable in any event because the state is unlikely to recoup large sums from negligent fire starters.
Dick Buehler, director of the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, collaborated on the bill, according to the newspaper. Buehler said under the new law, each fire will be examined to determine how it was started and whether the person responsible can be held liable for costs.
Utah officials say target shooting is the cause for most fires in the state started by people. In August, target shooters ignited a blaze that burned 1,200 acres across private and government land. Officials believe target shooters started another fire in September that burned more than 40 acres. In 2010, a blaze set off by machine-gun fire forced the evacuation of about 1,600 homes.
Officials say the new law will encourage people to be more careful. “Hopefully, the impact is that people use a little more common sense when they start fire,” state Rep. Michael Noel, the bill’s co-sponsor, told the Daily Herald. “Know your surroundings. Be aware of your neighbor’s property.”