Monday night's lightning storms and high winds may have seemed like a relief after days of near-record heat, but they have fire officials scrambling.
In Utah County, the storm whipped up the Allred fire near Santaquin and ignited another major fire southwest of Utah Lake. Lightning also is blamed for a fire just south of Point of the Mountain near the Salt Lake County border.A lightning strike just before 5 p.m. about five miles north of Elberta, Utah County, started a blaze that spread quickly across more than 2,000 acres of sagebrush and grasslands. The fire was still burning out of control Tuesday morning.
National Weather Service meteorologist William Alder said the "dry lightning" is a headache for fire officials because it doesn't accompany much moisture and often is followed by microburst winds.
That seems to be the case with the Point of the Mountain fire, which was started when lightning apparently hit the area about 10 p.m. Monday. High winds, including 42 miles per hour in Payson and 45 miles per hour in Mapleton, helped spread the fire to about 120 acres.
Thirty firefighters battled the grass fire for about three hours, said Salt Lake County Fire Capt. Royce Hawkinson.
Utah County Sheriff's spokesman Ron Fernstedt said flames of more than 20 feet high prevented about 25 firefighters from getting control of the fire near Elberta. The land, in an area called Mosida, is used mainly by sheep ranchers. Officials were up in aircraft Tuesday morning trying to locate a herd of 2,500 sheep that was grazing in the area Monday. Crews from the county and state, and a crew from Idaho were attempting to get a perimeter around the fire Tuesday.
Many of the firefighters working on the Mosida fire came from the three-day-old Allred fire. That blaze has burned more than 3,000 acres of state and private land. Crews thought they had the fire contained Monday, but Utah County Sheriff Dave Bateman said high winds Tuesday night helped flames jump the fire line and race up an area of steep terrain. When the winds died down, firefighters were able to regain control of the fire.
"We think it's about 90 percent contained right now," Bateman said Tuesday morning. "But with our limited resources we're pretty much spread out trying to fight them both."
Lightning also ignited a few smaller blazes throughout the county. Lehi fire crews spent most of the night fighting a small fire west of Camp Williams. Mapleton firefighters responded to a small brush fire started by a lightning strike.
Officials from the U.S. Forest Service are letting another small blaze in the wilderness area above Lone Peak in American Fork Canyon burn naturally. Spokeswoman Loyal Clark said the lightning-caused fire is burning in a small group of pines on steep terrain near Granite Flats.
"We're just monitoring it and making sure it doesn't escape or cause any more problems," Clark said.
Storms in southern Utah have also kept fire crews busy.
More than five very small lightning-caused fires were put out Monday near Cedar City.
Crews have contained a lightning-caused fire at Powell Point, east of Bryce Canyon, that burned 150 acres.
A fire that burned 298 acres near the town of Leamington in Millard County is believed to have been caused by railroad workers Sunday afternoon. The fire was contained Monday.