Quantcast

Crews contain Jordanelle fire, battle blazes in Daniels, Diamond Fork canyons

Published: Sunday, Aug. 19 2012 9:59 p.m. MDT

A helicopter dumps water on the Whiskey Springs fire near Heber City Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

HEBER CITY — Crews that had been battling a blaze near Jordanelle State Park were shifted Sunday afternoon to a new wildfire burning in Daniels Canyon.

The human-caused Whiskey Springs Fire started just before 1 p.m. Sunday in Daniels Canyon. Helicopters that had been on standby for the Fox Bay Fire near Jordanelle State Park were attacking the blaze from the air, said Janet Carson, Wasatch County Fire spokeswoman.

"We have flames shooting 60 feet in the air," Carson said, adding that an air attack may be the only way to fight the fire because of the steep terrain.

"It's in an area that goes straight up the hill," she said, "and it's moving quite rapidly."

Highway 40 was closed in both directions from Daniel's Summit to the point of entry in Heber from about 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. while crews were taking a defensive approach to the fire in efforts to reopen the roadway. Carson said the fire was burning at 375 acres Sunday evening and will be tackled by ground crews Monday.

She said the fire was started by human negligence, and those responsible reported the fire to officials.

A second human-caused fire was sparked around 1 p.m. in Diamond Fork Canyon Sunday and grew to 300 acres, Utah County Sheriff's Lt. Tom Hodgson said. The fire's progress prompted evacuations for some campgrounds while one road and a few hiking trails were closed. 

The fire was burning on the ridge of Red Mountain and was moving quickly during the day, but slowed in the cooler nighttime temperatures. Hodgson said the primary concern is keeping the fire from spreading over the mountain's ridge, where there is a large amount of dry timber and it would have a "straight shot" to Hobble Creek Canyon.

Balsam Campground was evacuated east to Halls Fork and the Diamond Fork campground was evacuated to Springville Crossing. Fifth Water and Three Forks trails, which both lead to the popular hot pots, were also closed, Hodgson said.

Cottonwood Trial and Wonds Road have also been closed. Hodgson said 50 firefighters were battling the blaze Sunday evening and that a helicopter had attacked from the air during the day.

A heavy tanker crew was called to the fire from Elko, Nev., but were delayed by weather. They are expected to arrive Monday.

The fire was zero percent contained Sunday evening. Its cause remains under investigation, but the man believed to have started the blaze notified officials.

"The reports we received were that it was a gentleman using a chainsaw," Hodgson said. "He called 911 when he started the fire."

Meanwhile, ground crews worked throughout the day Sunday to reach full containment on the Fox Bay Fire, which burned roughly 550 acres northwest of Jordanelle State Park after starting Saturday.

Evacuation orders that had been implemented Saturday for areas near Jordanelle State Park were lifted at 4 p.m. Sunday.

"Everyone is happy to be home and finding everything is still standing," Carson said.

Krista Sockseth, general manager of the Lodge at Stillwater who lives on-site, said she left 5 p.m. Saturday with ash falling on her shoulders.

"By the time we left, it was crazy," she said. "When we left... the other complex was engulfed in smoke. We thought it was going down."

She returned Sunday and was relieved and happy to find that all the homes and buildings were intact.

"It's phenomenal," she said. "I don't know how the firemen did it, but they're amazing."

Wasatch County Chief Deputy Sheriff Jared Rigby said firefighters acted quickly and were aided in their efforts by the natural barriers of Highway 40 and Jordanelle.

"For all of the misfortune that was experienced, there was also some very fortunate things," he said. "With barriers on the east and the west, the crews were able to concentrate on the north and the south, particularly on the south, because that's where all the home and the people and the businesses were at."

Visitors evacuated from Jordanelle State Park were being allowed to retrieve their boats, trailers and other personal property Sunday, though the park likely won't completely reopen until Monday, officials said.

The Utah chapter of the American Red Cross opened a shelter Saturday for displaced residents at J.R. Smith Elementary School, 235 E. 500 North. Seven evacuees stayed there overnight, according to the Red Cross.

The cause of the Fox Bay Fire remains under investigation, Carson said.

Contributing: Sandra Yi

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com, emorgan@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS