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U.P. TO PAY FOR FIGHTING 600-ACRE BLAZE

SHARE U.P. TO PAY FOR FIGHTING 600-ACRE BLAZE

Union Pacific says it will pay for firefighting costs incurred to stop a blaze that consumed 600 acres earlier this month.

"After reviewing videotapes of the area and talking with witnesses, we're quite sure it was our train that started it," said company spokesman Mark Davis.About 75 firefighters from 11 departments battled the wind-whipped fire Aug. 5 that came within feet of charring several homes in the Uintah area. Officials estimate they spent at least $15,000 above what they would on a "normal" fire.

"We're not opposed to railroads and respect their rights of way; we expect occasional fires when conditions are so dry," said Weber Fire Chief Glenn Burton. "But when you use every department in the county for 18 hours, that's going above the call of duty."

In the hours after the smoky blaze, which darkened skies in the Ogden area, Union Pacific said the crew on the 86-car train discovered the fire but that the train didn't start it.

Witnesses, however, described the train as "a ball of fire," starting at least 10 separate blazes along the tracks, Burton said.

Homeowners in the area report fires annually; Burton said the fire began in the middle of a three-mile stretch particularly vulnerable because high winds from Weber Canyon fuel a localized blaze into a conflagration.

Davis said company investigators hadn't determined the cause but ruled out the possibility of transients starting the fire.

"We interviewed the two that were on that train and they didn't have anything that could be a source of ignition . . . no matches, or lighters or cigarettes."