Patch Springs Fire destroys homes in Willow Springs
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About 10 homes from the evacuated community of Willow Springs have been destroyed by the growing Patch Springs Fire in Tooele County, according to dispatchers from the sheriff's office. The sheriff's office said the fire hit a mobile home community and spread throughout multiple properties.
Strong south winds caused the fire to shoot up to 33,000 acres Friday from 14,000 acres earlier in the day. On Thursday, about 20 homes in Willow Springs were evacuated, according to Bureau of Land Management West Desert District spokeswoman Joanna Wilson. Evacuations remained in effect until 10 p.m. Friday.
To the chagrin of firefighters, the winds managed to push the fire over State Highway 199 on Friday, which had been used as an anchor point until then. The highway was closed Friday for a six-mile stretch starting at the intersection with Highway 196.
Fire officials will now have to reassess a new point from which to battle the blaze, which was 20 percent contained. The growing fire, burning through brush, grass and juniper, also caused officials to evacuate a second community, the town of Terra, in the afternoon.
The fire also caused the evacuation of the Clover Springs Campground off Highway 199. The Utah Red Cross has set up an evacuation shelter at Grantsville High School, said CEO Heidi Ruster. Ruster said there were power outages at the original shelter site, an LDS church in Dugway.
"That's been a challenge, determining that shelter location in light of the fast movement of the fire," Ruster said.
Wilson said air support from the Rockport 5 Fire near the Summit County town of Wanship was brought in Friday to help, in addition to the two helicopters and two air tankers already deployed. Until Friday, the Patch Springs Fire had been competing with the rash of other fires throughout the state for air attack resources, Wilson said. Now that the fire is threatening homes, the priority for air support has been diverted back to Patch Springs.
Officials reported three injuries in the fire so far. All were firefighters who had to be treated for dehydration. Another source of worry for firefighters is the opening of bow hunting season on Saturday. Wilson said hunters have been calling to ask if they will be able to go into the canyons surrounding the fire. With the exception of the Big Hollow Canyon, which is off limits because of the closure on Highway 199, people are free to hunt elsewhere, but officials urged caution. Wilson said there is fire activity in East Hickman Canyon.
"We're just asking people to be careful," she said. "Just keep your distance."