Community Members in Utah County Receive Frank Message From Firefighters
UTAH COUNTY, Utah —Evacuees and community members who attended a community meeting on the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain fires Saturday received a frank message from firefighters.
“Our ability to get in close and work the fire—especially at the north end of the fire where all the communities are—has been, well, it’s very limited,” said Evans Kuo, the deputy incident commander for Great Basin Team 5. “
Kuo warned the full house at the Salem Hills High School auditorium that high winds remained a dangerous adversary.
“We could try—we could put people up there, but most likely the fire would go right over the top of our lines and we would not be able to contain it,” Kuo said.
As of Saturday afternoon, the Pole Creek Fire had grown to 68,347 acres and the Bald Mountain Fire was estimated at 17,760 acres.
Kuo said 550 to 600 firefighters were working the fires, with as many as another 600 currently on the way to the area.
While firefighters were applauded several times for their efforts, some in attendance were not satisfied or happy, including one man who pressed firefighters on why they allowed the Bald Mountain Fire to burn during its initial stages.
Dave Whittekiend, supervisor of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, responded by saying firefighters didn’t just sit back and were monitoring the fire and were working to build a line to halt its progress.
“We didn’t think Bald Mountain would do anything because it sat for days,” said Whittekiend, who acknowledged the fire eventually outflanked firefighters.
Elk Ridge evacuee Jerry Stewart said he was left wanting more from firefighters.
“They didn’t really tell us anything about what’s going to happen or what they’re going to do to stop the fire from getting to our homes,” Stewart said. “I would have thought they could have told us more about how long it’s going to be that we’re out of our houses.”
Bill and Marjorie Stringham, who have been living out of a RV since the mandatory evacuation notice, said they believed firefighters had done a “good enough” job of keeping fire away from homes.
“There have been no structures burned,” Bill Stringham said. “With fires the size of that, that’s rather amazing.”
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