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Winds driving wildfires in Tooele, Salt Lake counties

Jun 17, 2022, 1:45 PM | Updated: May 21, 2023, 4:42 pm

UPDATE: As of June 18th, the Lakeshore Fire is 100% contained, according to Utah Fire Info.

UPDATE: A new wildfire sparked Friday night at the junction of SR-201 and I-80.

State fire officials estimated that the Cypress Fire, which is burning east of the Lakeshore Fire, had burned 100 acres as of 9 p.m.

“Resources are executing a backfiring operation at this time to slow the fire spread,” read a tweet from the state’s fire account Friday night.

Multiple crews are responding as firefighters deal with erratic winds.

Our original story follows below.

TOOELE COUNTY, Utah — Crews responded to two new fires Friday, one of which closed part of Interstate 80 and was threatening power lines in the area.

The Lakeshore Fire was reported Friday afternoon near milepost 100 on I-80. Eastbound lanes were closed for a time while firefighters worked to extinguish the flames. They temporarily reopened, only to close again when the flames reignited.

State Route 201 also closed Friday night in the westbound direction.

As of 10 p.m., both directions of I-80 have reopened.

“When we showed up on scene, we were seeing flames 10 to 20 feet high,” said Jon Smith with the North Tooele Fire District. “What I saw was two to three acres and that was just one single spot fire and it was just being spread by the wind.”

State fire officials estimated the Lakeshore Fire, which combined with the nearby Lone Fire Friday afternoon, had burned 400 acres and 40 powerlines, and was approximately 80% contained as of 7:41 p.m.

“No structures are threatened at this time,” read a tweet Friday night from state fire officials.

According to Hanna Lenkowski, spokesperson for the West Desert District of BLM, powerlines through the fire area have been shut off, the Union Pacific Railroad has been shutdown, and I-80 and SR-201 are being impacted with temporary closures.

The Great Salt Lake State Park has also closed, according to state park officials, due to the fire and a loss of power at the visitors center.

Multiple agencies are responding, including North Tooele Fire District; Grantsville; Unified Fire Authority; Salt Lake City; West Valley City; BLM; Utah Forestry, Fire, State Lands; and Syracuse.

According to state fire officials, all aircraft has been grounded due to the erratic winds.

“When you get wind and fire combined like this, fire can travel at 15 miles an hour, and you can’t outrun that. We just work really hard, keeping up and getting in front of it and putting it out the best we can,” Smith said.

Around 7:15 p.m., the flames reignited, sending thick plumes of black smoke into the air.

No cause for the fire has been released, but crews said high winds were driving the fire.

“The biggest concern right now is the wind, the dry air, and the fact that it’s Friday afternoon and we still have a whole lot of weekend in front of us, a whole lot of hot temperatures, and a whole lot of people hitting the highways and byways,” Smith said.

Officials are reminding the public that Utah is in a red flag warning through the weekend, and all efforts to prevent wildfires should be taken.

In addition to the fire prevention orders on the state’s fire website, you should:

  • Fully extinguish campfires and avoid building fires when winds are 15 mph or higher
  • Avoid target shooting in hot, dry, and windy conditions
  • Choose a target shooting backstop free of rocks and dry grass – any bullet hitting rocks can create a spark
  • Avoid cutting, welding or grinding of metal in areas of dry vegetation
  • Keep trailer chains lifted above the ground – dragging chains can create sparks
  • Avoid parking a hot vehicle over dry grass
  • Maintain tires, wheels and bearing on trailers to prevent mechanical failure
  • Check off-highway vehicle exhaust system yearly to ensure the spark arrester is mounted securely and is qualified
  • Fully extinguish and properly dispose of cigarettes

The Lakeshore Fire was one of several fires that started across Utah on Friday, as a brush fire temporarily closed both directions of Legacy Parkway in Centerville.

Barney Wash Fire

Unified Fire Authority crews have responded to a fire near the Copperton Mine.

The Barney Wash Fire is being driven by winds and state fire officials estimated it had burned 40 acres as of 1:40 p.m.

Authorities said crews have constructed a dozer line to help with firefighting efforts.

Around 2:40 p.m. Friday, a spokesperson for Rio Tinto Kennecott released a short statement to KSL, saying:

Rio Tinto Kennecott confirms brush fires broke out near our operations earlier today. Our emergency response teams have been mobilized as well as firemen from the Unified Fire Authority and local police. There are no current threats to people and the cause of the fires remains unknown at this time. We will continue to monitor the situation until the fires are extinguished and the sites secured.

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Winds driving wildfires in Tooele, Salt Lake counties