Some 161 Utah National Guard volunteers began training Monday to fight Utah's wildfires after Gov. Mike Leavitt's call for additional firefighting help over the weekend.
Meanwhile, the firefighter shortage caused line crews to work double shifts on at least one Utah wildfire Monday. "Firefighters will work 16-hour shifts in order to gain the upper hand on the fires," Interagency Fire Center spokesman Dick Kline said in reference to the 14,000-acre fire complex burning out of control in Tooele County since Thursday.Fire bosses are still at odds with nature - finding all of the wrong conditions for fighting fires. "We are experiencing high temperatures, low humidities and moderate winds. This, coupled with dry vegetation, makes for difficult firefighting conditions," said incident commander Stan Fitzgerald.
On the 2,000-acre Black Willow Springs fire in Millard County, fire information officer Don Bolenger said the wind blew all night Sunday and afternoon thunderstorms were in the forecast for Monday.
"We get one thing out of them, and that's wind," Bolenger said of the thunderstorms. The storm may bring a quarter-inch of rain, which would help firefighting efforts.
Bolenger said the moisture content of plants in the fire area has been measured at 6 percent. "You can't even air-dry lumber to less than 12 percent," he said.
Smoke from the fire obscured I-15 Sunday evening, prompting the Utah Highway Patrol to set up traffic patrols to guide traffic through the area until the smoke cleared.
National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Bob Nelson said 120 Army National Guard and 41 Air National Guard volunteers began firefighting training Monday after the governor sought additional firefighting resources over the weekend.
"They will be involved today and tomorrow in training at Camp Williams. They will be available for firefighting duty on Wednesday," Nelson said.
The governor had already declared a state of emergency because of the fire danger in the state, which allows him to call Guard members to involuntary active duty.
But all of the Guard members in training volunteered for the duty - some being drawn from a standing list of individuals willing to volunteer for additional duty; and some solicited during a telephone search for volunteers conducted Friday and Saturday.