View Behind Fire Lines Shows Destruction of Land and Protection of Homes
ELK RIDGE, Utah – As the Pole Creek Fire and Bald Mountain Fire continue to burn, fire bosses today took reporters behind fire lines. They showed widespread destruction in areas adored for recreation and valued for cattle grazing, but also progress in protecting neighborhoods.
Right now, 600 firefighters are on the Bald Mountain Fire, mindful of the wind as it intensifies this afternoon and evening. The 16,000-acre fire is burning above the communities of Woodland Hills and Elk Ridge, where 5,000 people have been evacuated. But, fire bosses say, they’ve been able to cut fire lines and improve the protection for those homes.
“This is another red flag fire day,” said Dan Dallas, Bald Mountain Fire Planning Chief. “That means winds are expected to be over 30 miles an hour.” And, the relative humidity is below 15 percent.”
Elite hotshot crews of 20 firefighter are out for several days at a time. They are camping out, doing the toughest work right on the fire lines.
“They’re walking right against the fire line which is just on the other side of this mountain,” said Dallas. They are working to protect homes with a greater barrier from the fire. “One foot is in the black. One foot is in the green. They are digging a line right up there.”
Firefighters took reporters up the Nebo Loop Road, about seven miles up Payson Canyon, in an area just above the Grotto Trailhead. We were roughly four miles below the Payson Lakes area which is a very popular camping area.
Firefighters said the entire area burned through several days ago. That was when the fire blew up over the weekend and expanded drastically.
The fire has turned this entire area into a moonscape that firefighters call ‘nuke black.’ Right now, firefighters are working just on the other side of the ridge to make sure that they have better structure protection for those neighborhoods of Woodland Hills and Elk Ridge.
“There’s pretty much nothing left,” said Patrick Costin, a fire public information officer. “You’ve got tree stumps.. Almost all of the grasses, the brush all the little things were just completely consumed.”
Cool nights enable firefighters to make progress. But, flames flare up again in the afternoon. As the winds pick up, firefighters expect an active day on both the Pole Creek Fire and the Bald Mountain Fire. Firefighters fear the weather today will be as bad as it gets.
It’s been six days since the fire took off, expanded rapidly, and forced people out of their homes. Still no word on when they can get back into their neighborhoods.
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