ORANGEVILLE, Emery County — Hundreds of firefighters were working Monday to contain a prescribed burn that blew out of control last week and has since burned more than 2,600 acres, including destroying a cabin.
With a lack of rainfall and winter's low snowpack, this year will be worse than average in Utah for fires, according to Jason Curry, public information officer with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
"It doesn't look like there's much rain on the forecast so absolutely things are going to pick up, get busier, and be more busy than we have been thus far," he said.
Five helicopters, including a Black Hawk and two Chinooks, were on scene at the Trail Mountain Fire on Monday, as well as 11 fire engines and 259 firefighters working to contain the blaze, according to the Emery County Sheriff's Office. The blaze was 10 percent contained as of Monday mid-afternoon.
The fire began last Wednesday as a prescribed burn, but spread across Cottonwood Canyon to East Mountain during an unexpected thunderstorm, officials said Thursday. Prescribed burning was then halted and efforts shifted instead to containing the wildfire.
The fire grew "significantly" over the weekend as winds pushed it from Mill Canyon to Meetinghouse Canyon, according to the sheriff's office. A cabin and outbuilding have been destroyed, and North Emery Water users' culinary water is threatened as the fire continues to burn.
Officials warned people driving state Route 31 in Huntington Canyon to "use caution as the smoke tends to settle down near the roadway."
With fire season underway, Curry says that preparing homes for wildfires is "really simple to start with."
"You can look around your property, look at what the vegetation looks like, and see what can be trimmed up and trimmed back. It can be things as simple as cleaning out rain gutters and cleaning up debris piles that might be around," Curry explained.
He said that when a wildfire destroys a home, it is usually because of what firefighters call "ember attack." When flames don't directly impact the home, he said, embers often go out ahead of the front of flames and can get into "pockets of fuel."
Those pockets of fuel are often found in places like rain gutters, collections of debris or dry grass, Curry said.
Curry also explained that when people are outside, they can start fires in several unexpected ways. For example, a fire last week was caused by someone driving on dry grass, he said.
Additionally, several fires broke out after people abandoned their campfires. Something dragging on a moving vehicle or trailer sparked on the road and ignited a grass fire. And another fire started when somebody cut metal with a grinding wheel.
"It's just important for people to look at what they're doing in the outdoors and decide if it's something that could be a risk for fire. And if so, take the necessary precautions. It might be a fire extinguisher, bucket hose, check the area, make sure you've got things cleared out," he said.
"Preventing a fire is much preferred to putting a fire out," Curry added.
The Trail Mountain Fire is one of several fires, large and small, that have broken out in Utah in recent weeks. Some of those were:
• The Willow Creek Fire, located southeast of Heber, had burned about 450 acres and was 10 percent contained Monday, according to officials.
• The Strawberry River Fire, which on Saturday started south of Fruitland, Duchesne County, had reached an estimated 99 acres Monday and was 5 percent contained.
• The Genola Fire in Utah County, started by a vehicle fire, spread to about 100 acres June 4 before it was extinguished.
For more advice on how to prepare your home for a fire, visit Firewise.org.