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Springville homes evacuated after fireworks sparked grass fire

Published: Saturday, July 26 2014 11:30 a.m. MDT

Updated: Sunday, July 27 2014 8:24 a.m. MDT

A heavy air tanker drops retardant on a fire burning Saturday, July 26, 2014, above Springville. The fire started overnight from fireworks.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SPRINGVILLE — At least 10 homes were temporarily evacuated and another 40 were on "standby" to evacuate after a growing grass fire broke out on the east bench of Springville in the middle of the night.

Police believe teens lighting fireworks east of the city limits started the blaze, which had burned about 125 acres of brush and grass by midday Saturday.

Firefighters were first called out to the east end of 400 South about 2:20 a.m. Saturday when sparks from fireworks ignited by two teenagers ignited the tinder-dry grass, said Springville Police Lt. Dave Caron.

"The teens reportedly called for help, but the extreme fire conditions caused the blaze to spread quickly," Caron said in a statement.

The fire was burning toward homes in the Spring Creek area, but crews were able to stifle the flames before they reached any of the homes. Winds eventually shifted the blaze away from those homes and the evacuated residents were allowed to return to their homes.

The first was last reported about 1,500 yards from the nearest structure, according to Caron. It was moving toward the Hobble Creek Canyon area.

Kim Osborn, fire information officer for the U.S. Forest Service, said Saturday evening that the fire was mostly active in the canyon and was no longer close to any homes. She said air support helped reach and suppress the blaze in terrain difficult for firefighters.

Firefighters from Springville, Utah County, Mapleton, Spanish Fork and Salem were battling the fire with the help of a hotshot team and air support assistance from three helicopters and two airplanes.

A Type 3 Incident Management Team — a team of 10 to 20 people trained to manage major fire incidents — was called in to take command of the fire operations Saturday afternoon.

As of day's end Saturday, the fire had burned across 140 acres and was 15 percent contained.

Meantime, several other fires continued to burn across Utah Saturday.

Dorothy Harvey, of the Western Great Basin Incident Command Team 3, said the Levan Fire near Levan grew to 4,336 acres Saturday, but crews reached 15 percent containment with the help of some rain that slowed the fire.

Harvey said there were 343 people fighting the fire, which started around 4 p.m. Thursday and prompted immediate evacuation of six homes in the area between Chicken Creek and Water Hollow. The evacuation was lifted around 9 p.m., but the road at Chicken Creek remains closed

Harvey said additional resources were coming to fight the fire "all the time."

"We have a preorder of crews and stuff that we automatically call to a fire, so we will be getting a few extra crews and stuff until our operations people feel they're no longer needed," she explained. "It's not really that we expect the fire to grow outrageously, but we are prepared in case it does."

In Tooele County, the Simpson Complex and Anaconda fires were 95 percent contained as of Saturday.

The Simpson Complex was actually two large, lightning-caused fires — the Sheep Fire and Lion Peak Fire — near Vernon in Tooele County that grew to cover 4,150 acres. Fire officials reported the fire was 95 percent contained Saturday.

It was anticipated that they would return command of the blaze to local fire departments by 10 p.m. and reach full containment by 8 p.m. Sunday.

The Anaconda Fire was also caused by lightning. It was sparked July 20 and grew to 1,140 acres but has been holding at 95 percent containment since Thursday and been returned to the purview of local fire departments.

The Tunnel Hollow Fire near Morgan also started July 20 and grew to about 1,600 acres as it burned near Morgan. Spokesman Doug Bitton said a closure on the Weber River between Croyden and Taggart was lifted Saturday morning.

Bitton said crews reached 70 percent containment Saturday morning, and he was optimistic that number had reached 95 percent by the end of the day. It was expected that local fire departments would take over management of that fire and would reach full containment Sunday.

"No evacuations, no injuries," Bitton said. "The fire, I believe, it getting to a point of not being a focus anymore."

Kathy Jo Pollock, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest spokeswoman, said the Y-Fire was burning in a remote, rocky area on the north end of Y Mountain. That was a lightning-caused fire started Thursday and smoldering on two or three trees.

"We don't have anybody on it, because it's way too unsafe," Pollock said. "It's inaccessible, but it's really contained by a natural barrier, which is all the rock."

Just to the east of that fire is the 4-acre South Rock fire that was started by lightning the same day as the Y-Fire. That one is 100 percent contained.

Pollock said the Black Fire, which has burned over 670 acres, was slow Saturday and did not spread. Burning in the Sheeprock Mountains of Tooele County, that blaze is 80 percent contained.

Email: eeagar@deseretnews.com, emorgan@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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