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Wildfire destroys buildings in Duchesne County

Published June 25, 2012 8:06 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A wildfire has destroyed buildings and is moving toward other structures in Duchesne County.

The Church Camp fire increased in size tenfold during Monday afternoon and evening, reaching 1,000 acres as of 7:30 p.m. as it burned 19 miles southwest of Duchesne near U.S Highway 191 in Argyle Canyon.

"We saw some pretty extreme fire behavior with the wind behind it," said Louis J. Haynes, spokesman for the Ashley National Forest. "There was alignment with the wind, fuels and slope."

Fire crews identified and evacuated 83 buildings at risk early Monday, Haynes said; they know some of them have been destroyed, but they don't know which buildings or how many were affected. Smoke is too thick and the fire too intense to allow crews to assess damage, he said.

Crews reported flames as high as 200 feet. The fire was jumping from treetop to treetop, torching trees from their trunks and spitting embers up to a quarter-mile ahead, starting new, smaller fires.

Winds were pushing the fire northeast, toward the threatened buildings, Haynes said. Cabins, trailers, power lines, major transmission power lines, outbuildings and historic log cabins are at risk. The fire jumped over Argyle Canyon Road, which crews hoped would serve as a firebreak.

"We were hoping it wouldn't get there, but the winds came up," Haynes said.

Humans started the Church Camp Fire on Sunday, but the specific cause is still under investigation, said Mike Erickson of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

Rand Jolley lives on the Wasatch Front but has a vacation home in Argyle Canyon. As he left his cabin to return to Salt Lake City about 6 p.m. Sunday, he could see smoke a few miles to the east. On Monday he was trying to learn how close his cabin is to the Church Camp Fire but was having trouble reaching anybody with good information.

Jolley said there are perhaps 15 other cabins within a half-mile of his. Pine beetles there have destroyed trees and made them ready fuel for fire.

"You've got lots of dead pine in there and it's just been extremely dry this year," Jolley said.

One hundred firefighters were working against the fire as of Monday night.