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Wildfires rampage in parts of Utah

Rich County blaze explodes, puts Idaho crew at risk

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Fires raged through portions of the state Saturday, including a 1,000-acre brush fire in Rich County that rolled over a fire crew.

The firefighters were able to scramble to safety after their engine became stuck while they battled the Rabbit Creek blaze about 11 miles east of Bear Lake.

First reported at 11:20 a.m., the blaze was at 25 acres but had grown to 150 acres in an hour. By 4 p.m., it had reached 700 acres and was marshaling the forces of crews from three states.

Salt Lake Interagency Fire Center spokeswoman Kathy Jo Pollock blamed extremely dry grass and brush as the culprits fueling the fire's pace. At least 10 engines were on the scene, and two hand crews were being called out late Saturday, she said.

Investigators were en route to determine why the Bear Lake County, Idaho, fire engine became stuck, endangering its crew.

Pollock said the crew jumped to another engine to escape injury.

Although no structures had been threatened, Pollock said officials worried about the fire reaching some power poles and a gas line less than 2 miles away.

"These fires can play havoc with you because they change direction so fast," she said.

Although she was hopeful the fire might be contained by 6 a.m. today, Pollock said a lot of factors would influence success.

Pollock said another storm with lightning was predicted to move through the area in the next day or two and was causing new concern.

"It's going to be very volatile in the next few days," she said.

Elsewhere in the state, a tired Carbon County fire warden helped direct his crews to extinguish three lightning-caused fires and another blaze caused by sparks from a train.

A Saturday night brush fire also was burning above Draper near 12165 South and 2151 East.

The fire in the foothills was generating its own brand of consternation as curious spectators stopped on streets or emerged from houses to watch the color light up the sky. By late Saturday night, it was creeping toward homes, but firefighters worked to stave off the blaze.

Salt Lake County Fire Capt. Bill Brass said about 60 firefighters had responded and many were wetting down brittle oak brush behind the area homes — some of which were less than 200 yards away from the fast-moving flames.

Investigators were trying to determine if the fire was caused by children playing with fireworks. Brass said he suspected it would be several hours before the fire was brought under control.

Near Cedar City, storms generated dozens of fires in the Color Country region.

The storms have roared over the region since Thursday, said Dave Hart, manager of Cedar City Interagency Fire. "It would be safe to say, since Thursday, we've had 50 new starts."

That number includes Saturday's six new starts, which firefighters were concentrating on containing Saturday night. Most of the other fires have been contained.

Hart said about 300 acres had been charred Saturday afternoon.

Several crews were working on the fires Saturday, Hart said, including the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and even crews from Arizona and Montana.


E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

Contributing: Laura Hancock