Utah is ablaze with wildfires tonight as fire crews are scrambling to extinguish three separate fires including two that prompted evacuations of homes and campgrounds.
"Everything came together. We've had hot, dry temperatures, we've had gusty winds," said Loyal Clark with the U.S. Forest Service. "It's just like the stars were aligned, but not in a good way."
The 125-acre Spring Lake fire near Payson ignited Friday afternoon and forced the evacuation of the Maple Dell Boy Scout camp and the Maple Bench campground in the Uinta National Forest.
"We were just getting a lot of frantic Scout leaders and parents calling us so we just decided to evacuate it," said Clark.
The fire is believed to be human-caused, and investigators were looking at whether a downed power line sparked it. Flames burned dangerously close to 14 homes. Homeowners were evacuated.
"I was coming home and I saw the whole (mountain) on fire," said Cathy Barnett, a resident in the Mountain Dell area, whose home wasn't evacuated. "It looked like every house up there was on fire huge, huge flames.
Air tankers were able to lay down retardant lines, saving them. Firefighters from all over Utah County, state and federal crews are being brought in to battle the blaze. Air tankers and helicopters were pulled off another wildfire burning in northern Utah to help with the Spring Lake fire.
A 400-acre wildfire continues to burn near campgrounds in the Stansbury Mountains near Tooele, prompting the closure of a canyon.
Smoke from the Little Bald Mountain fire was spotted Thursday, and the fire has been propelled by winds moving across the area, fire crews said. That fire is believed to have been sparked by lightning from storms moving through Utah a couple of days ago.
"It is burning in really thick timber," said Kathy Jo Pollock with the U.S. Forest Service.
Six campgrounds are in the South Willow Canyon area. Three campers were evacuated from the area Friday morning. A few private homes are also in the vicinity but are not currently threatened.
Fire crews are being diverted to help contain the blaze quickly. A pair of Hot Shot crews, 10 smoke jumpers, a helicopter and a sky crane are on the scene now.
"It's really steep country and inaccessible to engines," Pollock said.
Another fire is burning in Duchesne County's Wagstaff Hollow near Highway 35, on private land west of Starvation Reservoir. Smoke from the wildfire can be seen as far away as Vernal. Fire crews from local, state, federal and tribal agencies are fighting the fire.
The cause of the 400 acre blaze is still unknown, but fire officials speculate it could be a "holdover," a fire started by lightning that didn't ignite immediately but smoldered.
Cheryl Nelson, the manager of the Uinta Basin Interagency Fire Center in Vernal, said four crews of 20 people each have been ordered to fight the fire. A pair of helicopters and two single-engine tankers, a heavy tanker and four engines were also being brought in.No structures are being threatened at this time, Nelson said.
Contributing: Clayton Norlen and Geoff Liesek E-mail: [email protected]
E-mail: [email protected]