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Fire on face of Mount Nebo rages over rugged terrain

SHARE Fire on face of Mount Nebo rages over rugged terrain

NEPHI, Juab County — A wildfire, possibly an arson, that has already burned 2,550 acres along the face of Mount Nebo in Juab County continues to spread.

The fire has burned several power poles and lines, but no other structures are in danger.

The fire also burned over water systems in Birch Creek Canyon that service irrigation needs for farmers in Mona and Nephi. Fire officials with the Uinta National Forest will meet with officials from both cities today to determine damage to the systems.

Birch Creek Canyon is a popular area for hikers, but forest officials say no hikers or hunters were in the area when the fire started. There are no campgrounds in the area.

Fire investigators think the blaze started around 2 p.m. Thursday afternoon on private property six miles northeast of Nephi and spread quickly as heavy winds pushed the fire along dry brush on Mount Nebo's face. Fire officials are not sure how the fire started.

Within half an hour the fire had consumed 600 acres. Fire crews contained the fire burning in the foothills Thursday night, but were unable to stop the blaze burning on the side of the mountain, which is so rugged it is nearly inaccessible.

Two air tankers and two helicopters dumped retardant on the fire Thursday and will continue fighting the blaze today. The fire has already burned through Birch Creek Canyon and down the south side of Willow Creek Canyon.

"Our biggest concern is stopping the fire at Willow Creek Canyon because there is so much timber there it could burn for a very long time," said Loyal Clark, spokeswoman for the Uinta National Forest.

By 7 p.m. Thursday smoke from the fire had already turned the sky pink in Provo, which is more than 40 miles from Nephi. Heavy ash fell in Santaquin and other small Utah County cities.

"This is going to be a tough fire because it is in such an inaccessible area. It's just wilderness up there," Clark said.

E-MAIL: jhyde@desnews.com