Human-caused wildfire erupts near US Highway 40 in Wasatch County

May 22, 2022, 5:46 PM | Updated: May 21, 2023, 4:42 pm

WASATCH COUNTY, Utah — Fire crews battled a fast-growing, human-caused blaze that erupted along U.S. Highway 40 in Wasatch County Sunday.

Drivers heading up and down U.S. 40 north of Heber City all evening encountered smoke and passed by dozens of firefighters embedded in the hillside.

“At the time, we were only calling it 4 acres. We went to 15, to 50, now we’re calling it 85 acres,” explained Mike Eriksson, area manager for the Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands.

A heavy air tanker flew ahead, and deputies stopped traffic on U.S. 40 briefly to allow for the tanker to make retardant drops.

Eriksson pointed out that it’s early in the season for the area to be seeing a wildfire requiring these types of resources.

“Wasatch County usually doesn’t see fires like this until July and August,” he said. “Quite honestly, I can only think of a couple of times where we’ve had a fire get over two or three acres in May.”

Eriksson explained that they don’t think Mother Nature is responsible for the Flatline Fire.

They believe it’s human-caused but don’t know how it was started just yet. Investigators will take a few days to pinpoint the ignition source.

They do know flames erupted far off the highway, meaning a driver didn’t start it.

“There are a few trails. I mean, this fire, the Flatline Fire, is named after that trail on Wasatch Mountain State Park right there,” Eriksson said.

While the fire was hard to miss from the highway, Eriksson explained it burned in rugged terrain, and the flames proved hard to fight.

“You look at this and go, ‘Where it is, we should be able to get to that really easy,’” Eriksson said. “But as soon as you get off that highway, it’s oak brush everywhere.”

Dozens of firefighters and the heavy air tanker make their attacks, determined to slow it down before nightfall.

Eriksson expected more resources to arrive Monday.

He said there’s a potential for a really bad fire season this year and warned of the importance of being careful and cognizant.

“As we’re shooting, camping, having campfires, and all those things that we do, recreation, fun — everybody loves to do that,” he said. “But if we can be a little bit more careful, that will help us all out.”

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Human-caused wildfire erupts near US Highway 40 in Wasatch County