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Crews gain ground in 2 fires

Disposal procedure at Camp Williams will be reviewed

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Reduced winds have allowed firefighters to gain ground on two big blazes that remain out of control.

They are the Beef Hollow fire, accidentally started by National Guard soldiers at Camp Williams, and the Fort Ranch fire that once threatened Golden Spike National Historic Site 32 miles west of Brigham City. A report that federal officials filed Tuesday night reckoned the cost so far of suppressing the fires at $275,000 and $89,000, respectively.

Camp Williams (Beef Hollow) fire

Salt Lake County officials said hundreds of homes in Herriman and Bluffdale were threatened by the Camp Williams blaze, but they are no longer in danger.

Lt. Col. Craig V. Morgan, spokesman for the Utah National Guard, said soldiers were going through routine disposal of pyrotechnic devices on Monday when unexpected wind gusts blew sparks into a nearby grass area.

The work was in a cleared area that was designated for disposal, but dry conditions and high winds quickly ignited the nearby grass. "The team followed established safety procedures but they were caught off-guard by the high winds," said Lt. Col. Peter K. Wilson, Camp Williams facilities manager.

"Due to the extremely dry conditions the fire spread to more than five acres in less than 10 minutes."

Morgan said Guard officials will review procedures to make sure this doesn't happen in the future.

Thanks to the work of the Guard and civilian firefighters who used troop carriers, fire engines and helicopters, the fire is 50 percent to 60 percent contained. So far, it has burned about 12,000 acres.

"They had a good day yesterday, were able to secure the flanks," said Jim Springer, public information officer for Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

"They should make more headway on that today, as long as the winds don't get too strong."

Fort Ranch fire

"Last night it made a run around midnight and grew to about 34,000 acres," said Mary Risser, superintendent of Golden Spike National Historic Site. The latest activity is on the other side of the mountains from the historic site.

Fire engines from neighboring communities protected a church and five other structures. "A few power lines were lost, but all the structures were saved," she said.

Two new crews have arrived, the Red Rock Regulars from Moab and the Craig Hotshots from Colorado. About 70 people are battling the fire.

On Monday night the fire knocked out power service, and Thiokol officials provided a generator that kept the lights on.

The fire has burned trails and a parking lot, and "we don't know how many miles of fence line were lost." But major structures were saved. Although the fire crossed a historic railroad grade, no tracks remain there and the blaze did not go over the railroad track used for re-enactments.

Elsewhere, two small fires in the western desert, near Simpson Springs and Dugway Proving Ground, are still burning but may be controlled Wednesday.

A blaze called the Sandy fire in Box Elder County north of Promontory has burned about 1,200 acres.

The only other huge wildfire in Utah is the Keg Mountain fire, 35 miles northwest of Delta, which has scorched 8,000 acres. "They're making headway on that also," said Springer.

Susan Marzec of the Bureau of Land Management warned that while the winds have died down, the fire situation remains extremely dangerous. "We are holding our breath, as everybody is," she said.

"Given the conditions right now, things have the potential to really go," agreed the BLM's Teresa Rigby.

E-MAIL: bau@desnews.com ; lhancock@desnews.com