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Haze thickens as fires burn on

Crews, water resources being stretched thin

SHARE Haze thickens as fires burn on

Much of the state awoke to a haze Monday morning as wildfires continued to burn throughout Utah, stretching firefighters and water resources dangerously thin.

"The resources just aren't there this year," said Robbie McAboy, spokeswoman for the Wasatch Complex Fire. "An order has been put in for more crews. Their current crews are very tired, and many of them are reaching their 14-day limit."

Crews from all over the West, including an air crew from Alaska, were fighting a fire in Alpine Monday morning.

"It's possible to find replacements, it's just going to be tough," McAboy said.

American Fork Canyon remained closed Monday as fire crews tried to keep flames away from homes in the upper hills of Alpine. Three homes were evacuated Monday morning, said Dave Freeland, spokesman for the Wasatch Complex Fire.

Authorities, who say the fire was human-caused, took a man into custody Sunday night for questioning after neighbors spotted a suspicious person leaving the area shortly after the fire started, Freeland said.

By Monday morning the fire had reached 400 acres and was expected to grow to at least 600 acres by the end of the day, Freeland said.

The fire in Alpine was part of the Wasatch Complex Fire that also was burning 1,500 acres in Provo Canyon. The Provo Canyon fire was 25 percent contained by Monday morning.

Logan Canyon was closed Sunday for a couple hours and was expected to be closed periodically Monday as a 600-acre fire burned. The fire was started by a hawk hitting a power line. Crews were battling high winds Monday but expected the blaze to be contained by Tuesday at 8 p.m., according to Kathy Jo Pollock, Interagency Fire spokeswoman.

The Oldroyd Fire on Monroe Mountain in Fishlake National Forest was at 500 acres Monday and threatened 25 to 50 cabins, trailers and other buildings. People living in those structures have been evacuated from the area since Thursday.

The Oldroyd Fire also includes the Broad Fire, burning 17,000 acres just west of Nephi; the Mona West Fire, burning 14,000 acres; and the Morning Dove Fire, burning 7,000 acres. The Morning Dove Fire forced the evacuation of Oak Creek campground Sunday, said Ellen Daniels, fire information officer for Richfield Interagency Fire Center. The fire also was moving south toward Oak City, where residents were placed on alert for a possible evacuation.

The John Allen Fire burning 13 miles northwest of Escalante in Dixie National Forest remained at 160 acres and was approximately 35 percent contained.

The Bismark Fire, burning 15 miles south of Fairfield, started Wednesday from a lightning strike. The 100-acre blaze was threatening grain fields, power lines, a cabin and ranch.

Much of the state's fire problem has come from unusually hot and dry weather.

The average high for this time of year is 93 degrees, but recent temperatures have been almost 10 degrees higher than that, according to Dennis Rodgers, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Sunday's high of 102 degrees was one degree shy of the record for that day set in 1934. Monday's high also was expected to reach 102 degrees, which would tie the record high for the day set in 1990.

"We could be right near the 100s all week," Rodgers said. "We're going to stay hot and dry probably right through this weekend and into next week."

Besides hot temperatures, the numerous fires burning around the state have created a strong haze in the valley. The haze has prompted a health advisory. Air quality officials recommend people with respiratory problems stay indoors.

Bob Dalley, manager of the Air Monitoring Station for the Department of Environmental Quality, said ozone levels were high Monday, prompting the department to issue a voluntary no-drive day. Residents are encouraged to leave their cars in the garage if possible and take light rail or the bus.

E-MAIL: djensen@desnews.com ; preavy@desnews.com