The only thing scarier than standing on a burning mountain is standing on it while deer hunters aim rifles at you, the Utah County Sheriff said Wednesday.
"Most of the hunters in Hobble Creek Canyon are wearing orange, but the firefighters are not," Sheriff Dave Bateman said Wednesday. "Firefighters wandering through the brush could easily be mistaken for a deer."Fire crews have worked since Tuesday afternoon to contain a blaze that has consumed 150 acres of grass and oak brush. Officials say the fire started when sparks from a damaged power line ignited the brush.
"There are indications the line was shot by someone trying to hit the insulator nearby," Bateman said. "Generally, those lines don't break unless there is some outside force.
"Once some guys get a gun in their hands, they get bored and shoot at anything - road signs, fence posts. I don't know how to explain their thinking process, but it happens frequently."
Thursday it was confirmed that the line was shot.
One hundred firefighters have been brought in to control the fire, but Bateman said hunters have not stayed clear of the area.
"They are out there, running around, interrupting the fire-fighting efforts. They are tying up my law enforcement personnel with traffic control."
Worse than that, Bateman said, several hunters have stood at the side of the road and watched fire-fighters through the scopes of rifles for a magnified view of the action.
"I'm sure it's not deliberate; they're not trying to endanger anyone. But the mere fact they are pointing loaded firearms is frightening. We've had people killed in Utah County when hunters looked at someone through their scopes and the firearms accidentally discharged.
"If one of those hunters at the side of the road had a firearm discharge, we could have a dead firefighter. And the thought of that distracts the firefighters from their work."
Besides hunters, safety crews must manage the usual "rubbernecks," Bateman said.
"Rubbernecks are the people who drive by slowly and crane their necks to see what is going on. We are always surprised people can stretch their necks that far. Their necks must be made of rubber."
Bateman said he will feel better when the fire is out, but he and his officers won't relax until Nov. 1.
"We always breathe a sigh of relief when the deer season is over."