FARMINGTON — Firefighters across the state kept their eyes both on the landscape and the weather Saturday.
Crews continued to battle more than a half-dozen wildfires from Garfield to Cache counties, while several also monitored storms that passed through parts of the state, bringing lightning, wind and welcome rain.
In Farmington, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Kim Osborn said bad weather did not hinder suppression efforts on the Farmington Spine Fire.
"We didn't get any of the weather others have gotten," Osborn said early Saturday evening.
Crews were able to bring that fire to 50 percent containment by Saturday night.
The fire that was very visible Friday night with its orange glow on the mountainside above Lagoon, east of I-15, had burned 58 acres, a revised figure down from 75 on Friday. By Saturday afternoon, it was hard to tell there was still an active fire.
Two air tankers, two helicopters, four engines and three 20-person crews were used to build firebreaks and prevent the flames from reaching any structures. Farmington Canyon was closed most of Saturday while crews battled the blaze.
The fire is human caused, though Osborn could not confirm Saturday whether target shooters sparked it. Five people, however, were questioned by the US Forest Service. It was unclear Saturday whether those five were still under investigation or had been cleared.
Late Saturday afternoon, the Forest Service asked for anyone who took a picture of the fire when it started on Friday, before it got dark, to email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Summit County, crews battling the Rockport Fire that has been burning since Tuesday and destroyed eight homes in the Rockport Estates and Rockport Ranches subdivisions got some welcome rain. Though there are concerns about debris flows on the scarred land, it did not rain enough for that to happen Saturday.
Approximately 110 homes remained evacuated, with residents not expecting to return until Monday night at the earliest.
The fire remained at 1,920 acres burned but the containment was upped to 70 percent. Hot spots that have been flaring up near homes in the Rockport Estates region continued to keep firefighters on their toes Saturday.
Residents from the region, including Wanship and the once evacuated community of Bridge Hollow, held a fundraiser and barbecue Saturday for those who had lost their homes.
The fundraiser was held at Rafter-B Gas Station, the gas and convenience store on state Route 32 right off I-80, known for its home-cooked food. It has become a meeting point for many since the fire started. One of Rafter-B's employees was one of the eight homeowners who lost everything.
"Even if we didn't know them, it would still be personal just because it's in our community and we all gather together as a community," said Kim Alderman, who helped organize Saturday's fundraising event. "It's been a crazy week, but we're getting to the end of it, and I think everyone is doing OK."
Donations to the families were being dropped off by the pickup truck full Saturday.
"It just goes to show the people here are amazing," said Frankie Donaldson, another one of the organizers. "They're going to need a lot of help. They have absolutely nothing. We've had fires here before, but never to this devastation."
Also Saturday, Tawni Sprouse, the bride whose wedding dress was saved earlier this week from her home in Rockport Estates, got married to Travis Mann.
The couple, however, had to overcome both fire and rain before officially tying the knot.
Sprouse and Mann were originally supposed to be married in a large house overlooking Rockport Reservoir before the Rockport Fire and evacuations changed those plans.
Then they were going to be married in the campground at Rockport Reservoir. An hour before the wedding, the happy couple continued to look on the bright side.
"Out of the ashes comes the Phoenix, I guess, and we're going to just keep it going and make the most of it," Mann said as it started to rain. "Given the situation, to us, rain is a great thing.
Sprouse wore her teal cowgirl boots and wedding dress with a matching teal sash.
"As long as we have each other and everyone is safe," Mann said. "The elements just are as they are. And that's nature and it goes on, and we're going to make the most of it, and it's going to be amazing."
But the couple got more of the elements than they anticipated just an hour later, as heavy rain and wind made it impossible to be married outdoors. Plus, wedding guests were delayed by the Black Hawk helicopters fighting the fire.
The wedding was moved for a second time, this time to the Old Church, a 100-plus-year-old structure at the base of the Rockport Dam. This time, the marriage was completed.
The Rockport Fire was started by a lightning strike on Aug. 13.
In Tooele County, the 31,000 Patch Springs Fire, also started by lightning on Aug. 10, increased to 25 percent contained. The number of trailers burned was revised to 6. In addition, the Willow Springs Lodge, a 100 year old building was destroyed by the fire.
The evacuation orders for approximately 70 residents of Willow Springs and Terra were lifted Friday night. Power was restored to Terra and Dugway Proving Ground on Saturday night.
"Things looked really good today, overall. Even into the red flag conditions," said fire spokeswoman Teresa Rigby.
State Route 199 remained closed as additional storms with lightning moved through the area Saturday, hampering firefighting efforts. Firefighters had to be moved to safety as the lightning-filled storm passed over, which also created several additional smaller fires. The storm produced little rain, Rigby said. But the cloud cover came as a relief and crews were "still able to get progress made."
At least three firefighters have been treated for dehydration since the fire started, according to officials. Additional fire crews were expected to arrive Sunday to help.
Rigby cautioned those participating in the archery hunt they may experience more smoke in the area and asked that they be extremely cautious with campfires, avoiding them if possible.
Up north, the Millville Fire that started Aug. 11 by lightning, had burned more than 2,800 acres and grew to 35 percent containment by Saturday night. Evacuation orders for residences and campgrounds in Blacksmith Fork Canyon remained in effect Saturday. Subdivisions at the mouth of the canyon have not been evacuated.3 comments on this story
Firefighters say extreme fire conditions and rugged terrain have made it a difficult wildfire to fight. Ground crews have been building fire lines while helicopters continued to make bucket drops on hot spots.
Near Eureka, the 1,600-acre 222 Fire was 5 percent contained. That fire was also sparked by lightning. There were no evacuations in place, but those participating in archery hunting season were encouraged to stay west of Cherry Creek Road.
Fire also continued to rage Saturday in the Sun Valley and Ketchum regions of Idaho.
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