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  • Utah-Wildfire update

    Farmington fire slows, but control is elusive

    200 new acres burn; homes out of harm's way
    By Lynn Arave and Jennifer Dobner
    Deseret Morning News staff writers

    FARMINGTON — The Farmington Canyon wildfire continued to burn out of control up steep mountain hillsides Saturday — although light winds and 100 extra firefighters helped keep the growth of the blaze to just 200 new acres above the 2,000 already burned.

    The Farmington-area fire heats up Saturday. Fire officials put containment at 40 percent but said mopping up was a long way off.

    Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News
    All those extra hands also helped get the fire about 40 percent contained, but fire officials said there is still a long way to go before anyone can talk about mopping up and going home.
    "It's going to be difficult," said Greg Underwood, spokesman for Wasatch-Cache National Forest. "There are so many little spot fires out there."
    The blaze, which was allegedly started Thursday afternoon by a transient, is said to be the worst in Davis County since 1986, when Centerville had a hillside blaze.
    The fire currently stretches about four miles from Shepherd Canyon on the north to Steed Canyon on the south, and fire crews are digging lines along those edges, hoping to eventually encircle it and cut it off. Fire officials project about three miles of line will have to be dug with pickaxes and shovels to do so.
    Residences in Fruit Heights and Farmington, which were threatened on Thursday, were out of harm's way Saturday — helped by a lack of downdraft winds overnight Friday which kept the fire moving up the hillside. The nearest structures in the fire path — summer homes up Farmington Canyon — are still some six miles away from the fire, said Kathy Jo Pollock, spokeswoman for the Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
    "The fire's still moving slowly east," she said. "No structures are in any imminent danger."
    Up to 75 firefighters battled the blaze at one time Saturday. They all had to hike up the steep mountain slopes, some of which approach a 50 percent grade and are found in the 6,000-7,000-foot elevation range. Four new "hot shot" out-of-state firefighting crews arrived Saturday to help fight the blaze, the worst wildfire burning in the Great Basin.

    Lance Wollebaek takes a break from fighting the blaze.

    Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News
    The fire ravaged the upper reaches of Rudd Canyon Saturday, a canyon that produced a huge mudslide in 1983, raising fears of future mudslides there as has been seen after past fires. The blaze also has destroyed vegetation above the Farmington Canyon road, which could be in jeopardy from erosion or mudslides, too.
    "Firefighter safety is a No. 1 priority," Pollock said, explaining that low humidity and hot temperatures make it very grueling for the firefighters.
    Four helicopters were used Saturday to carry water to throw on the blaze. However, retardant dropped from airtankers was not used Saturday because it can't reach the floor of the dense oak brush canopy below.
    Those tankers were instead sent to Utah County, where a fire broke out near Saratoga Springs on the eastern slope of Lake Mountain and burned about 123 acres.
    The fire started on private land and burned onto areas managed by the state and the Bureau of Land Management, BLM fire information officer Teresa Rigby said. The cause of the fire, which was nearly contained by press time Saturday, remained under investigation, she said.
    The cost of fighting the Farmington fire had reached $350,000 through Friday due to the more than two dozen retardant drops on the blaze, Pollock said. And the total cost is expected soar in the next few days as the fire teams order supplies. In fact, costs could reach $1 million in just a few days, she added.

    Smoke rises from the mountainside behind homes that lie west of Utah Lake near Saratoga Springs.

    Dan Lund, for the Deseret Morning News
    Should the Farmington fire continue up the mountain, it will top out at about a 9,000-foot elevation, although fire officials said it's not too likely to crest and burn down the Morgan County side of the mountain. At least, not without the help of some strong winds, said Jennifer Eberlien, another Forest Service fire information officer.
    The Farmington Canyon Road remains closed, and the connecting Skyline Drive Road that runs from Bountiful is indefinitely closed, from the top of Centerville Canyon northward. Technically, canyons from Bair on the north to Centerville on the south are also closed.
    While the Francis Peak radar station is in little jeopardy, Eberlien said, the facility is still unmanned indefinitely until the fire is better controlled. That facility has two domes and sits on the area's highest summit, about 9,500 feet in elevation.
    "The station is well protected on a rocky outcropping," she said. "There's only a few grasses growing around it." An underground electric power line to the facility has been turned off for safety reasons.
    Lagoon and Cherry Hill amusement areas were open as usual Saturday, and by afternoon, their parking lots were full. I-15 traffic flowed smoothly, too, Saturday. Farmington city didn't let the fire ruin any plans it had for its annual festival either, and events were held as scheduled.
    Eberlien also wants to remind the public that starting at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, July 17, more stringent campfire restrictions will take effect in northern Utah for all U.S. Forest Service land, except the high Uintas, where there is more moisture. Campfires will then be allowed only in developed campgrounds. Fireworks are not allowed.

    Front line since 1983 and still going strong

  • #2
    Farmington Area last fire was before area inhabited

    Area's first known wildfire occurred before Mormon era
    The first recorded wildfire in the Farmington area predates the Mormon pioneers by a full year.
    Edwin Bryant, part of the Bryant-Russel pioneer company, entered the South Weber area on July 25, 1846, from Weber Canyon. He recorded in his diary that a large fire encompassed most of the mountainside to the south, obscuring the sun. Winds were blowing the smoke over the entire area, he wrote.
    Bryant and his party were headed to California, and they traveled through Davis County, skirting around the edge of the Great Salt Lake toward Pilot Peak.
    Front line since 1983 and still going strong


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