Thousands Evacuated, I-80 Impacted As Multiple Crews Battle Parleys Canyon Fire

Aug 14, 2021, 3:42 PM | Updated: Jul 14, 2023, 5:11 pm

PARK CITY, Utah — A new wildfire has broken out in Parleys Canyon, threatening power lines and thousands of homes, as well as affecting traffic on Interstate 80.

The rapidly-growing Parleys Canyon Fire is burning off of I-80, between mile markers 137 and 138, just east of Lambs Canyon.

It had burned more than 2,000 acres as of 4:37 p.m. Saturday, about three hours after it initially sparked, according to state fire officials.

“This is going to be a long battle,” said Lt. Nick Swallow with the Utah Highway Patrol.

As of 7 p.m., the blaze was 0% contained and had not reached any structures.

Several trucks and air resources from multiple agencies have responded to the scene.

Power lines and thousands of primary and secondary structures are being threatened by the blaze, according to state fire officials.

Just after 3:30 p.m., all Summit Park residents were told to evacuate immediately.

Pinebrook and Timberline residents were told to evacuate not long after by officials with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.

State fire officials said evacuations had also been ordered in Lambs Canyon and upper Mill Creek Canyon.

About 6,000 to 8,000 homes in total have been placed under evacuation orders.

Sheriff Justin Martinez with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office sent out a tweet Saturday afternoon, urging residents who have been ordered to evacuate to get out immediately.

“To the residents who are refusing to evacuate for the #ParleysCanyonFire — you are hampering efforts and are putting first responders in danger. PLEASE evacuate immediately!” read the tweet.

Brian Trick, public information officer with Parleys 137, echoed those same sentiments.

“If a police officer or the highway patrol or anybody is asking you to leave, please do leave,” he said.

Summit County officials said all residents who have been evacuated due to the fire should plan to be out of their homes for 24 to 48 hours.

An evacuation center has been set up at Park City High School, located at 1750 Kearns Boulevard, for those who have been affected.

The site was later converted to an overnight shelter.

Travelers were advised to use an alternate route Saturday as eastbound I-80 experienced major delays and was backed up for several miles. 

Officials with the Utah Department of Transportation recommended drivers use U.S. Highway 84 in Weber County or U.S. Highway 189 in Provo Canyon instead. They also advised semi trucks to avoid Guardsman Pass.

Just before 3 p.m., UDOT said only one lane was open in the eastbound direction, just west of Parleys Summit.

A second lane reopened several hours later.

Some events were canceled Saturday night due to the fire.

Officials with Deer Valley Resort said the Indigo Girls concert, which was scheduled for Aug. 14, would be postponed, adding that, “This decision was made in order to help alleviate pressure on law enforcement services and fire resources.”

They said they were working on a rescheduled date.

Just before 9 p.m. Saturday, officials at Jordanelle State Park said it would be closed to day-use water access on Sunday, Aug. 15 “in order for fire fighting crews to utilize the reservoir in their efforts to contain the fire.”

Photos and videos sent in from viewers showed thick clouds of smoke billowing from the hillside, which could be seen for miles.

(Bob Tackleberry) (Bob Tackleberry) (Bob Tackleberry) (Bob Tackleberry) View of the flames from just above the Foothill area in Salt Lake City. (Beth Brewer) View of the flames from just above the Foothill area in Salt Lake City. (Beth Brewer) (Neil Petersen) (Neil Petersen) (Neil Petersen)

State fire officials advised the public to please use caution and avoid the area while crews battle the fire.

The fire was determined to be caused by equipment.

According to a tweet from the Utah Fire Info, a catalytic converter in poor working order ejected hot particles along the roadside.

Trick said the catalytic converter sparked four separate fires, which eventually converged into one large fire.

“Two I think immediately merged, and we were planning on two different incidents, and then those two incidents merged into the single one behind us,” he said.

In a matter of minutes, Trick said the flames overcame the mountainside, which is fueled by sage and oak brush, prompting a massive defensive response on air and on ground.

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Thousands Evacuated, I-80 Impacted As Multiple Crews Battle Parleys Canyon Fire