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'Chaining' helps curb one fire while others continue to burn

Published: Thursday, Aug. 9 2012 10:12 p.m. MDT

Julie and Katelynn Richards watch a Black Hawk helicopter pick up water in Herriman to battle the Pinyon Fire Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012.

James Young, Deseret News

CENTRAL, Washington County — In comparison to other blazes this fire season that have devoured tens of thousands of Utah acres, the Atchinson Fire could easily be considered small and sincere — and that's partially by design and partially a "happy accident."

The fire was sparked by lightning in an area where the Forest Service utilized a process of "chaining" in 2007, which helped curb fire growth. But Kevin Greenhalgh, forest fire management officer for the Dixie National Forest, said the fact that chaining had been done was more a "happy accident."

"(Chaining) is typically done to create wildlife habitat, which was the case in this one," Greenhalgh said. "It really wasn't done as a fuel treatment, but it really can be a benefit. With the lighter fuels in place afterward, it makes it easier to suppress the fire."

The Atchinson Fire started Tuesday around 8 p.m. and, as of noon Thursday, had been kept to 51 acres with 85 percent containment. According to a Bureau of Land Management press release, chaining was partly responsible for "containing the fire to a much smaller size than if the treatment hadn't been completed."

Chaining is a process that typically involves placing a large chain between two bulldozers and pulling the chain through to knock down and pull out large vegetation such as trees and brush, Greenhalgh said. He said it also prepares the ground to be reseeded with native grasses that best support the area wildlife.

"It's creating that grass habitat for a lot of species that need the grass to eat," he said. "It creates a feeding area."

He said chaining is one treatment used annually on 10,000 to 15,000 acres with the goal of creating wildlife habitats and reducing fire risk. Typically, it's done adjacent to communities to prevent fire danger or in areas indicated by wildlife employees.

Elsewhere in Utah, Kim Osborn, a fire information officer on the Pinyon Fire, which was burning near Eagle Mountain, said things were "looking good" Thursday afternoon. The fire grew Wednesday and its containment declined, but officials are hoping for full containment by Monday.

With temperatures hovering near the century mark throughout much of the state, wildfires continue to be a concern in Utah. Here's what was burning Thursday:

Faust Fire

Where: Nine miles northwest of Vernon, Tooele County.

Size: 20,000 acres.

Containment: 25 percent.

Structures: None threatened.

Evacuations: None.

Started: 4:50 p.m. Sunday.

Cause: Lightning.

* * *

Pinyon Fire

Where: One mile northeast of Eagle Mountain.

Size: 5,684 acres.

Containment: 30 percent.

Structures: None threatened.

Evacuations: 56 homes were under a mandatory evacuation order from Tuesday evening to Wednesday morning.

Started: 8 p.m., Sunday.

Cause: Lightning.

* * *

West Mountain Fire

Where: West Mountain, near Utah Hill northwest of St. George

Size: 2,450 acres

Containment: 95 percent

Structures: None threatened

Evacuations: None

Started: 7:45 p.m. Saturday

Cause: Lightning

* * *

Atchinson Fire

Where: Two miles east of Central, Washington County

Size: 51 acres

Containment: 55 percent

Structures: None threatened

Evacuations: None

Started: 8:10 p.m. Tuesday

Cause: Lightning

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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