Hot, dry windy weekend ahead for Utah firefighters
120,000 acres plus • Six major blazes remain untamed, but some progress noted.
Published: June 29, 2012 11:27AM
Updated: July 3, 2012 09:34AM
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Kyle Kester | Special to The Salt Lake Tribune Firefighters survey the damage near following a wildfire near New Harmony, Utah, Thursday, June 28, 2012.

More than 140,000 acres of tinder dry Utah were ablaze going into the weekend, but firefighters were increasingly optimistic of getting the upper hand.

Although hot temperatures and gusting winds were forecast for Saturday, fire authorities harbored growing hopes that containment was nearing for several of six major wildfires.

• The Wood Hollow Fire in Sanpete County has burned 46,400 acres and 160 structures — 52 of them characterized as primary dwellings — since starting June 23. On Friday, crews had reached 35 percent containment. More than 900 firefighters, supported in the air by water- and fire retardant-bearing helicopters and air tankers, predicted they would complete cutting fire lines around that blaze sometime Friday night.

“We’re trying to hang on to what we’ve been able to accomplish today. A ‘burnout’ [controlled burns of vegetation to deny flames room to grow] we did last night on the north part of the fire went really well,” said Interagency Fire Center spokesman Mark Wilkening. “Our primary focus right now is to mop up any hot spots, knocking down new flare-ups and extinguishing them as they occur.”

The Wood Hollow Fire has been blamed for the death of an Indianola area man whose body was found in a burned residential area earlier this week. Authorities still had not released his identity on Friday.

Sanpete County sheriff’s deputies and fire managers had ordered evacuation of hundreds of area homes and cabins. But on Friday, only the Indianola-area subdivision of Big Hollow remained off-limits to residents. But authorities said landonwers would be allowed to return Saturday morning at 8 a.m.

• The Clay Springs Fire reached an estimated 68,309 acres Friday. About 180 firefighters battled human-caused flames burning about four miles south of Oak City. Evacuations ordered earlier for Oak City and Fool Creek were lifted.

Interagency Fire Center spokesman Kate Kramer estimated containment of the Clay Springs Fire at 15 percent. One cabin and three Oak City maintenance buildings have burned, and she said fire managers were keeping a close eye on the potential for flames approaching the communities of Mills, Scipio, Nephi and, again, Oak City.

Two firefighters remained at the Intermountain Burn Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, being treated for serious burns sustained in fighting the blaze on Wednesday. Oak City Mayor Mike Staheli said the men, one in his 40s the other in his early 30s, are Oak City volunteer firefighters who work in the construction industry and have families.

“I visited with them in the hospital and they are improving and doing as well as expected. The prognosis is good for their recovery,” he said.

• The Seeley Fire, started by lightning, had burned 20,300 acres in the remote and rugged terrain of Carbon County’s Huntington Canyon and Gentry Mountain 15 miles northwest of Huntington. It was zero percent contained Friday. There was no estimate for when some 50 firefighters and helicopters dropping water might contain the four-day old fire. But officials said outlying communities have been protected.

• The Church Camp Fire had burned 5,600 acres about 22 miles south of the town of Duchesne. It was 30 percent contained Friday evening. Incident Commander John Kidd said 18 structures had been lost. Residents of homes along Argyle Road east of Highway 191 to Gardner Canyon remained under evacuation Friday.

The cause of the blaze remained under investigation as 547 firefighters fought the blaze.

• The New Harmony Fire sparked Wednesday by a malfunctioning water pump on private land in Washington County, was 90 percent contained Friday evening and all evacuations were lifted. Seven homes or trailers, 22 other structures and numerous vehicles were lost in the 1,827-acre blaze. One firefighter was treated for burns at a local hospital and released.

• The Pole Creek Fire, burning eight miles north of Neola in Duchesne County, was 60 percent contained by Friday night. Started on Wednesday by fireworks, it had burned 1,967 acres but was not threatening any homes.

• The Wolf Den Fire, burning in a remote part of Duchesne County, about 35 miles southeast of Vernal, started Friday from a presumed lightening strike. It had burned about 300 acres by Friday night and was zero percent contained. No structures were threatened, but oil and gas recovery infrastructure was threatened.

The National Weather Service placed much of the southwest quarter of the state under a “Red Flag” wildfire danger warning, and open fires and fireworks were banned statewide on public lands ahead of the Independence Day holiday.

remims@sltrib.com

Online • Statewide fire restrictions

To learn what fireworks restrictions are in place where you live see the state fire marshal’s website at http://t.co/TZcMTTyt

Fireworks restrictions were extended Friday to all unincorporated areas of Salt Lake County and county-owned parks and golf courses, which had been exempted from earlier restrictions. Fireworks already were banned in the foothills and canyons surrounding the valley above Wasatch Boulevard on the east bench and west of State Road 111 on the west bench.