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Lightning sparked fire above Fruit Heights, Forest Service says

Davis County fire 20% contained; Tooele County wildfire burns cabin

The burn scar left by the Francis Fire above Fruit Heights is pictured on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019.
The burn scar left by the Francis Fire above Fruit Heights is pictured on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

FRUIT HEIGHTS — A wildfire in the foothills above Fruit Heights that at one point forced the evacuation of 40 to 50 homes is believed to have been started by lightning, fire officials announced Tuesday.

As of Tuesday night, the Francis Fire had burned approximately 365 acres in and around Adams Canyon and was 20% contained. But a clearing in the middle of the blaze was left untouched by the flames — sparing a 58-year-old star on the mountain that’s lit up each year for Christmas.

The star, which is made up of about 75 lights and spans 60 feet, appeared to be untouched by the Francis Fire. It was, in the eyes of some, a “Christmas miracle.”

“The star is a symbol of gratitude to God, and I can’t think of a better reason to light that star than this,” said Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt. The star will be checked Wednesday, and if everything is intact and functioning, it will be lit Wednesday night.

“Traditions are important,” said Jeff Dunford, who has helped light the star for 40 years. “It makes you who you are as a community and it has been very unique for Kaysville.”

The fire was first reported about 1:45 p.m. Monday. By 5 p.m., due in part to strong winds, mandatory evacuations were ordered. Those evacuations were lifted by 10 p.m. as the fire burned uphill and away from homes. However, temporary closures remained in place Tuesday for Adams Canyon and the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in that area, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

An aggressive attack was initiated on the fire Monday that induced four helicopters dropping water and two air tankers dropping fire retardant around the perimeter.

Overnight rain also helped firefighting efforts, according to the Forest Service. But officials were worried about another round of gusty winds Tuesday afternoon.

No structures have been damaged by the fire, and none were threatened as of midday Tuesday.

A new fire also started overnight near Grantsville.

About 2 a.m. Tuesday, a fire was reported in the South Willow Canyon area. Grantsville’s fire chief was one of the first to arrive on the scene and found a cabin was burned all the way down to its foundation, said North Tooele Fire District Chief Randy Willden.

The cabin was vacant at the time of the fire as the owners had gone back to their primary home at the end of the weekend, he said.

The fire also made a run up the canyon for a couple of hundred feet, Willden said. Tooele County sheriff’s deputies began going door to door, waking residents up and warning them to be prepared to evacuate.

As of 10 a.m. there were no evacuations ordered as crews continued to clean up hot spots. Fire crews or equipment from Grantsville, the North Tooele Fire District and the Tooele Army Depot were used to fight the flames.

Willden said the cause of the fire was still being investigated Tuesday, but he said there was lightning in the area at about the time that the fire was reported.

Contributing: Dan Rascon