I-80 reopened near SL-Tooele County line after stubborn blaze snuffed
Traffic was finally moving in both directions on Interstate 80 this morning after a wildfire burned about 60 acres and destroyed three buildings at the Great Salt Lake Marina Tuesday.
United Fire Authority officials said the fire had been contained by 5 p.m. and firefighters worked overnight to extinguish lingering hot spots.
The blaze was first reported at 12:40 p.m. Tuesday and was burning south of Interstate 80, between State Road 201 and State Road 202 near the Salt Lake County-Tooele County line. At about 2:45 p.m., winds pushed the fire across the interstate to the marina, officials said.
Fire crews, busy trying to control the fire south of the highway, did not take measures to protect the marina in case the fire reached it, officials said. Two maintenance storage buildings owned by Utah State Parks were destroyed, as was a third, smaller, building. A fourth building, an environmental monitoring station owned by Kennecott Utah Copper, was also damaged -- along with a nearby cell phone tower.
Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Cameron Roden said the fire erupted in the area of cattails and marsh grasses between eastbound I-80 and SR-201 in west Salt Lake County and eastern Tooele County. The two routes run along parallel paths through much of Salt Lake County before merging as they enter Tooele County.
Heavy smoke had closed down all of I-80, along with eastbound lanes of SR-201; westbound lanes of SR-201 also were closed from about 9000 West to the Salt Lake County line, Roden said. SR-201 was intermittently open to allow vehicles through, but there was a large backup of traffic.
With the reopening of all lanes of eastbound I-80 at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, traffic through the area finally had returned to normal, the UHP said.
Unified Fire Authority Capt. Clint Smith said the quickly moving blaze raced to 5 acres in size by 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. By 2:15 p.m., several units and an estimated 40 firefighters were on scene. No injuries were reported.
"These gusty winds we're getting are causing us some difficulties," Smith acknowledged, noting stormy weather with gusts in the 30-40 mph range were buffeting the area Tuesday.