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Most Utah fires are out — ‘knock on wood’

SHARE Most Utah fires are out — ‘knock on wood’

Firefighters are gaining control of several large wildfires raging across Utah. "Knock on wood" added a state official on Monday, anticipating the Pioneer Day fireworks celebrations.

The biggest blaze is the "Y" fire near Provo, which has burned 525 acres since Saturday afternoon and is 70 percent contained. Full containment should happen by 6 p.m. Monday, said Loyal Clark, spokeswoman for Uinta National Forest, Provo.

"They've been able to determine that it was arson," she said. "Now they're just asking for anyone who saw anything suspicious at all . . . to please call the Forest Service or Provo City Police Department."

Although fire investigators haven't found anything that could have been used to start the fire, they believe someone drove to the area, parked their car, walked to a remote area and ignited brush.

"It's not like somebody flicked a cigarette or anything," Clark said. "This was intentionally caused."

By Monday evening, she expects, the cost of fighting the fire will total $500,000. Altogether, 277 firefighters were battling the stubborn fire, using four helicopters to make water drops.

The fire is in steep, shaley cliffs. The rugged terrain, dry air, high temperature and south winds combine to make the fire difficult to fight. "Some areas are so steep and dangerous we're flying the crews in this morning instead of having them walk up," she said.

Two minor injuries were reported: a sprained ankle and a dislocated shoulder. The trail to Y Mountain remains closed, but other areas are open, including Seven Peaks Water Park.

"Everything looks good. We're confident that we're getting a handle on the fire," Clark added.

The Fort Ranch fire, near Promontory, Box Elder County, has been contained after burning between 30,000 acres and 40,000 acres. The fire is strung out in an odd pattern, so that fire lines amount to 100 to 150 acres, said the state fire management coordinator, Dave Dalrymple.

"It was a big one," he said.

Two fires 50 miles northeast of Vernal scorched around 3,100 acres, Craig, Colo., Interagency Dispatch fire information officer Dave Root said. Steep canyons, funneling winds and dry vegetation made the fire unpredictable. Crews built a fire line around Brown's Park National Wildlife Refuge to protect its structures. Crews on Tuesday also continued building a control line along the fire's northwestern boundary.

A nearly 300-acre fire on Bureau of Land Management property 35 miles northwest of Cedar City did not grow much Monday. Crews were mopping it up Tuesday morning, Cedar City Interagency Fire Center dispatch said. The cause of the fire, which began burning Sunday evening, is still undetermined.

The Warm Springs fire, on the Juab-Utah county line, burned into Santaquin. This blaze, which started on Saturday, may have been human-caused. It burned 1,201 acres.

Volunteer fire department crews contained the fire Sunday, but one engine returned to the scene Monday to spray down flare-ups, Richfield Interagency Fire Center dispatcher Dirk Johnson said. About two-thirds of the blaze was in Utah County, the rest in Juab county.

"Other than that, we're in good shape," Dalrymple said. "Knock on wood."

The wood-knocking may be needed as firefighters brace for another holiday celebrated with fireworks. They warn that the extremely dry conditions mean that careless use of fireworks could spark dangerous fires.

Salt Lake County Fire Capt. Jay Ziolkowski said people should enjoy fireworks only in areas where they are permitted. "Stay away from open spaces like fields or any area where there would be a great potential for fire."

Illegal fireworks, anything that shoots higher than 15 feet in the air, also have a huge potential to start fires, he said.

Only some recreation areas are permitting campfires this year, Clark said. If camping, check with campground officials before making a fire.

Also, fireworks are banned on National Forest lands.


Contributing: Angie Welling

bau@desnews.com; lhancock@desnews.com