Francis Fire Started By Lightning Strike a Week Before, Firefighters Say
FRUIT HEIGHTS, Utah – While the Francis Fire might have seemingly popped up out of nowhere Monday, firefighters believed the cause was actually there, slowly smoldering for about a week, after a lightning strike.
“If lightning comes through, it might hit a tree, or whatever thing that it hits but when the lightning exits, it will usually come out down in the roots or however it decides to exit,” said Kim Osborn, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service.
What she said are called holdovers can smolder for weeks at a time, sometimes never surfacing. In the case of the Francis Fire, Osborn said strong winds fueled the burn, causing it to erupt into flames Monday afternoon.
“It sits down there and smolders in that… ground material,” Osborn said. “Then, with the right conditions, it will pop back up. That flame, the wind carries it (and) there you go, you’ve got another fire.”
By Tuesday morning, the Francis Fire had burned about 364 acres and was about 20% contained, according to officials.
What started small, quickly grew to a huge grass fire, right before Scott Manning’s eyes Monday. He had an up-close view of what was happening from his fruit stand, not far away from where the fire began.
“I had a customer come in and say, ‘what’s going on up on the mountain?'” Manning said. “We walked out here and looked and there was a little teeny fire that had just started right over there on the mountain.”
Manning said strong winds pushed the flames to the north, causing the fire to burn quickly.
“Within about 15 minutes, it had spread probably about 300 feet up the mountain,” Manning said. “There were high winds, and it just kept moving fast.”
Osborn said overnight rain and cooler temperatures, along with higher humidity, were all helping crews get a handle on the fire.
“Our main focus will be kind of from the south end to the north, around the base of the fires, to put in some fire line,” Osborn said.
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