Trojan No. 2, the wildfire that was called "merely explosive," took a turn for the worse Sunday and was still burning out of control Monday.
Fueled by canyon winds more than 25 mph, a fire that may have started at the Trojan Corp. powder plant in Spanish Fork Canyon headed northeast, scorching nearby Mapleton Canyon and large portions of Uinta National Forest on Saturday and Sunday. As of midnight Saturday, the blaze had burned only 15 acres, but 90 minutes later it had grown to a 1,200-acre wildfire and became a threat to lives and nearby homes."Fires aren't supposed to do that at night," said Bill Roach, spokesman for the firefighters. Flames as high as 30 feet were reported by local fire agencies who battled the blaze Saturday and Sunday.
U.S. Forest Service officials asked for 16 hand crews of 20 men apiece from various states, hoping to clear surrounding brush and possibly halt the fire's progress toward populated areas. A dozen crews arrived Sunday night, and Roach reported 30 percent containment as of Monday morning.
A helicopter crew dropped water throughout the day Sunday, and two retardant-bearing planes also aided efforts to halt the fire. Two hand crews fought the fire along the face of Maple Mountain on Sunday.
"It's hard to tell the crews exactly where to go," Uinta National Forest spokeswoman Loyal Clark said. "The first priority is to save homes, but the terrain is very steep. And this fire has been so unpredictable it has the possibility of being another Colorado fire (in which 14 firefighters lost their lives this year)."
Homes in southeast Mapleton and a half-mile radius of Spanish Fork Canyon had to be evacuated while the fire made its way through those areas Saturday night. The few homeowners in Spanish Fork Canyon were allowed back in early Sunday, and Mapleton residents remained with friends and family - or in a near-by Red Cross shelter at Maple-ton School - until the afternoon.
"This is much, much worse (than the 1989 Maple Mountain fire)," Mapleton Mayor Richard Maxfield said. "Last time it stopped before it got to the top of the canyon, but this is going over the mountaintop. We're hoping that what's burned here is all that's going to get burned, but that's still a lot of land."
Maxfield and other residents helped crews try to head the fire away from eight homes and soaked some roofs in anticipation of the worst. Early Sunday morning, the fire came closest to the home of local dentist Larry Broadbent.
"Everybody lost a lot of sleep last night," said a tired, but somewhat relieved Broadbent. "(Fire-fighters) made a backfire to stop the fire from getting any closer and we were up all night wetting things down."
Saturday night, crews from the Mapleton, Springville, Spanish Fork, Elk Ridge and Payson fire departments - as well as Utah County fire officials - hoped to contain the blaze to the nearby canyon. Smoke coming from Spanish Fork Canyon was reported to Utah County sheriff's dispatchers Saturday afternoon. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Sheriff's officials closed both sides of U.S. 6 for nearly four hours Saturday night while firefighters battled the blaze on the Trojan property. They also cautioned Spanish Fork Canyon residents against opening their windows while the fire was burning there. Once the fire had moved, the highway was reopened.
The fire was clearly visible throughout the county, and residents as far north as Lindon and as far south as Payson reported smelling smoke. .
Meanwhile, firefighters were also battling two fires in Summit County Monday, and a helicopter was dumping water on a blaze in Box Elder County.
The Echo Creek fire, located just east of Echo Canyon Reservoir, had burned 1,200 acres as of late Sunday.
"The concern is that (crews are able to get a) line built around the fire today so that if winds" pick up the fire won't spread, said Dick Kline, a spokesman for the Salt Lake Interagency Fire Center.
Kline said Summit County deputies evacuated some residents from cabins threatened by the fire Sunday, but no structures appeared to be threatened Monday.
The Heiner Canyon fire, north of I-80 and about 10 miles east of Echo Junction, had burned approximately 1,500 acres as of Monday morning.
"A lot depends on what the wind's going to do today. A lot of undeveloped area is located in the fire path, but no structures are threatened," Kline said.
More than 200 acres of brush and other materials had burned as of Monday morning in the Big Canyon fire in the Wellsville Mountain wilderness area northeast of Honeyville, Box Elder County.
That fire, which also started Saturday evening by lightning, is located in very inaccessible and steep terrain.