About 60 firefighters from Utah and Nevada were at the scene of several lightning-sparked fires Wednesday, which have charred nearly 2,000 acres of high mountain brush and timber in central Utah.
The fires are west of Mona Reservoir, southwest of Nephi and 60 miles west of Delta.The fire west of Delta was contained at 8 p.m. Tuesday after burning 400 acres, but ground and helicopter crews were still working the other fires Wednesday with containment not expected until late Wednesday evening, fire dispatchers in Richfield said.
Dry lightning Monday afternoon started the fires, and dry hot winds have fanned the flames through tinder-dry country, said Bureau of Land Management spokesman Bert Hart.
Three of the fires were burning juniper and sage while the North Canyon fire west of Delta charred pinion pine. Several firefighters were still patrolling the area west of Delta with an engine to watch for flare-ups Wednesday, dispatchers said.
The North Canyon blaze burned about 400 acres, Hart said. Fifteen firefighters and three engines, including two from Nevada, attempted to keep flames from spreading further into the Notch Peak Wilderness Study Area.
Federal requirements prohibit using heavy, destructive equipment in wilderness study areas because they may cause more damage than the fire itself.
The fire near Mona Reservoir was burning Wednesday in rugged pinion pine and juniper. Thirty firefighters, including a 20-man hand crew from the Forest Service's Spanish Fork office, were at the scene.
"The terrain is so steep there we had to call in ground crews to fight the fire because heavy equipment could not operate there," said Juab County Sheriff Dave Carter.
Another fire occurred five miles west of Levan in the mountainous area west of the freeway. Carter said the fire started near a commercial coal yard on flat land and burned three miles to the west of the
facility into the mountains. A microwave tower in the area was not threatened.
Monday evening a bulldozer was called in to build a line around the fire in an attempt to keep the fire within a perimeter. The range land being destroyed is mostly privately owned, said Carter.
The Sage Valley Pass fire, 11 miles southwest of Nephi, grew to 850 acres since being reported Monday. Two engines and two bulldozers were working along with an eight-man crew to contain the juniper and sage blaze, Hart said.
Nearly 600 acres of sage and juniper have been charred in the Little Sage Valley fire, 13 miles southwest of Nephi.
Other fires Saturday and Sunday were smaller but hit land owned by local farmers and fields close to homesteads. However, firefighters and property owners were able to put out the fires quickly.
Thus far it has been a quiet year for Utah firefighters, Hart said, with around 3,500 acres burned.
"The potential is there, and we are still encouraging people to be extremely cautious with any sorts of fire," he said, adding no fire bans have yet been posted on BLM lands in the state.
"It has been really calm this year. You keep waiting for it and Monday at 4 o'clock, everything hit at the same time," Hart said.