Fire Crews Fighting Several Blazes Across Utah During Record Heat Wave

Jun 15, 2021, 11:50 AM
Crews at the Pack Creek Fire in southeastern Utah on June 15, 2021. (Utah Fire Info/Twitter)...
Crews at the Pack Creek Fire in southeastern Utah on June 15, 2021. (Utah Fire Info/Twitter)
(Utah Fire Info/Twitter)

SALT LAKE CITY — Crews are battling wildfires across Utah as temperatures reach into the 100s this week, setting several records.

Red flag and excessive heat warnings were in effect for large portions of the Beehive State through Tuesday evening.

Fire officials said most of the state was in the “extreme” fire risk category this week, with some parts in the “very high” category.

“When conditions are EXTREME all fires are potentially serious because fires start quickly, spread furiously, and burn intensely. It is often too dangerous for firefighters to engage with direct attack suppression tactics,” read a Facebook post from Utah Fire Info.

Pack Creek Fire Meeting Scheduled For Tuesday

Evacuation orders were issued Sunday for all private property in and around the area east of Geyser Pass on the La Sal Mountains from Blue Lake down through Dark Canyon area due to the Pack Creek Fire.

“We have been notified that the Pack Creek Fire has breached the Geyser Pass road and therefore, for the safety of all citizens, we ask that you evacuate at this time while it is safe to do so,” read a Facebook post from the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office.

Officials lifted evacuation orders for residents in the lower Pack Creek Ranches area earlier Sunday.

However, evacuations were still in effect for the remaining homes past the U.S. Forest Service boundary.

The blaze was sparked Wednesday evening in San Juan County on the Manti-La Sal National Forest, south of Moab.

It had burned an estimated 8,435 acres and was 16% contained as of Tuesday morning. The estimated cost for fighting the fire was $2.6 million as of Tuesday.

“The significant spread of the Pack Creek Fire since Wednesday, June 9, is the result of drought conditions in the Manti-La Sal Mountains that haven’t been seen for at least 90 years,” fire officials said. “The combination of record heat, extremely dry fuels and steep, rugged terrain presents historic challenges for firefighters attempting to control the fire’s spread. More containment line was secured yesterday around Pack Creek, but containment remains at 6% due to growth in the fire perimeter.”

An area closure took effect Saturday, which prohibits public access to the west side of the La Sal Mountains, about 10 miles southeast of Moab.

More than 50 roads and trails in the area are also closed in order to keep the public away and safe.

Officials said containment of the fire was challenging for firefighters due to the steep, rocky terrain, but with the addition of more than 100 personnel over the next two days, efforts were expected to improve.

The blaze was caused by an abandoned campfire, according to state fire officials.

Bennion Creek Fire

This fire, burning in dry and windy conditions northwest of Scofield Reservoir in southern Utah County, experienced little to no growth overnight Monday.

Officials said it had burned an estimated 8,325 acres and was 10% contained as of Tuesday morning.

“In addition to focusing on controlling growth on the fire’s southeast side, today firefighters will continue to enhance protective measures for structures in Bennion Creek and Sugar House camps,” state fire officials said. “One evacuation order and several closures remain in effect for areas affected by the fire.”

The Aspen Cove subdivision was evacuated Thursday afternoon after high winds caused the fire to grow rapidly. Officials said the order will be reevaluated every day and depends on the fire’s activity.

The blaze was sparked by natural causes.

Bennion Ridge Road, Forest Road 0008 (Bear Ridge Road), Starvation Road and Fish Creek Trail are closed due to the fire.

Nine hand crews, 10 engines, 11 helicopters and two dozers have been assigned to the fire, totaling 270 personnel.

Bear Fire

Crews responded to a lightning-caused fire near U.S. Highway 6 and Price Canyon in Carbon County last Tuesday.

The Bear Fire had burned an estimated 11,061 acres and was 19% contained as of Tuesday morning.

Officials said the fire showed little to no growth overnight Monday.

U.S. 6 reopened to traffic around 6 p.m. Friday after being closed for most of the day, but due to speeding and aggressive drivers, firefighters had to be temporarily pulled off the roadway.

Fire crews also responded to several incidents along U.S. 6 during their overnight shift Sunday, and they asked drivers to stay focused, slow down, and use caution in the area.

A Type II federal firefighting team took control of the fire Friday evening, which means more resources, instead of only state and local fire crews.

“Priorities for (Tuesday) include placing crews in the area of Robinson Gulch, where they will work to complete line along the Southwestern edge of the fire,” officials said. “They will also continue to use aircraft to keep the fire on top of the ridge along Hardscrabble and Spring Canyon Road. They will complete preparation of the line north of Spring Canyon Road, so that, should conditions dictate, firefighters could safely conduct burning operations in that area.”

Broad Canyon Fire

The Broad Canyon Fire, which started west of Utah Lake near Little Moab in Utah County, reached 100% containment Sunday night.

Just after noon Sunday, crews said they were continuing to secure the perimeter of the fire, but officials were worried about high winds testing the fire line.

“Fire lines have held throughout the day’s heat/wind and the majority of resources will be demobilized tomorrow,” read a tweet later that day from Utah Fire Info.

Command of the blaze shifted overnight to a local BLM Incident Commander, according to a tweet from Utah Fire Info.

The cause was determined to be from an escaped campfire.

Mammoth Fire

Crews made significant progress on the Mammoth Fire, which was 93% contained and estimated at just over 700 acres Tuesday morning.

The blaze, which started Saturday, June 5 in the Dixie National Forest, forced the evacuation of around 250 homes and cabins and about 150 people in the Mammoth Creek Village.

That evacuation was lifted Tuesday.

Command of the fire transitioned from the Type 2 Great Basin Incident Management Team 5 back to the local unit at 6 a.m. Monday.

This fire was caused by lightning.

East Canyon Fire

At the last update, which came in Thursday evening, this Morgan County fire was considered 90% contained.

“The last 10% is in the thickest vegetation and will need additional work,” read a tweet from Utah Fire Info.

At least two homes and eight cabins were evacuated Tuesday afternoon after winds shifted, pushing flames up the canyon, but the order was lifted Wednesday. State Route 66 also reopened that day.

Officials said the fire was started by a Dominion Energy crew using heavy equipment in the area.

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Fire Crews Fighting Several Blazes Across Utah During Record Heat Wave