Two Utah wildland firefighters hospitalized for heat illnesses

Jul 4, 2023, 6:41 PM

UTAH COUNTY, Utah — Two Utah firefighters are recovering after suffering from heat illnesses Monday evening while fighting the Cedar Knoll Fire near Birdseye.

The two men were part of a group of Utah County Wildland Firefighters that were hiking up to help fight the Cedar Knoll Fire burning in the Manti-La Sal National Forest.

The men spent the night in the hospital to be treated for heat-related illnesses. According to Adam Solt, spokesman for Manti-La Sal, they were released Tuesday and are now at home recovering.

He said lightning sparked the fire Monday afternoon in very steep and rugged terrain.

“There’s some rock outcroppings and small cliffs, but the terrain around those is also very steep, and so it made it difficult to get to the area,” explained Sgt. Spencer Cannon with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office. “They could be carrying as much as 50 or 60 pounds or more and moving around in this terrain.”

By evening, the two firefighters fell sick from exertion and dehydration in the 95-degree heat and were transported by a Department of Public Safety helicopter to Highway 89.

Cannon said one of the men was then taken by ambulance to Spanish Fork Hospital. The other firefighter was in serious condition and was transported by medical helicopter to Utah Valley Hospital.

A Department of Public Safety helicopter landing with one of the firefighters. (Utah County Sheriff’s Office)

“The one who was having a little more significant problems, he doesn’t remember the helicopter ride. So he was in pretty serious shape,” Cannon said. “It can go downhill very, very quickly in a situation like that, and so getting help to them quickly is critical.”

The Cedar Knoll Fire grew to three acres overnight into Tuesday, Solt said. However, fire activity on Tuesday was minimal, and crews expected to contain it by Wednesday evening fully.

Two helicopters are working to dump water on the fire while a hotshot crew and six smoke jumpers battle the blaze from the ground. Crews are again dealing with Tuesday’s hot, dry, and windy weather.

The wildfire isn’t threatening any structures and no closures are in place.

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Two Utah wildland firefighters hospitalized for heat illnesses