Study: Wildfires in the West are getting bigger

 SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – New research shows that wildfires in the West have gotten bigger and more frequent over the last 30 years.

If you thought Utah had lots of wildfires last year, Dr. Philip Dennison, a University of Utah geologist, says to just wait.  His research shows that every year from now on, seven more wildfires will burn in the West.

"These are large fires.  These are fires over 1,000 acres, so we're not just talking about the small fires that are increasing, but the really big fires," said Dennison.

He and his team used a satellite system to study wildfire trends over the past 28 years.

"What we saw is that the biggest trends were in the southwestern U.S., and then also in the mountain area, so the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada," said Dennison. 

Dennison says one reason Utah sees so many fires is because of all the chi grass in the area.  He also says that when you play with fire, you are going to get burned. 

"In the past, we tried to put out every fire, and we wanted to make sure that even small fires didn't get out of control which resulted in a build-up of fuels," explained Dennison.

The trends his team of researchers found did not just pertain to Utah.

"The fact that we see this increase in fire over so many different regions tells us there's something bigger going on," said Dennison.

That 'something' is climate change.  Dennison says the West is continually getting dryer.  That's why he is urging Utahns to gear up and get used to the smoke.  

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