For the often undermanned crews battling southwestern Utah’s stubborn Baboon Wildfire, its been a weeklong ordeal of flaming frustration.
But fire officials expected the fire to soon be fully contained, with 95 percent contained reached Thursday. A contingent of 40 firefighters had been working on the blaze that had consumed nearly 21,000 acres about six miles north of Minersville.
Along with tinder-dry fuels, gusting winds and tough, remote terrain, crews have had to deal with the unpredictability of flare-ups that is hauntingly like a particularly mercurial specimen of its primate namesake.
"We think we’ve got it, and then it surprises us," fire information officer Nick Howell lamented. "That’s been our biggest challenge, and that was demonstrated just the other day, on Saturday, when it blew up again and grew 1,700 acres. It made a real good run on us then and it took us a while to [cut fire lines] around it."
Crews had thought they were all but done with the Baboon fire until that latest flare-up.
"It was certainly unforeseen," Howell said. "All it took was for a tree to torch out just inside the existing fire line. It threw embers outside the line into super-dry vegetation and off it went."
Crews focused on one last, stubborn patch of flames on the fire’s southeast border Thursday.
Progress proved both painstaking and slow due to "steep, rocky terrain [that was] especially tough to get to for our crews," Howell said, adding that resources have been strained as other blazes in the region siphoned away ground and air assets.
The cause of the fire, which has mainly blackened brush, pinyon and juniper, was determined to be a lighting strike on July 20. No injuries nor property damage had been reported.
The Interagency Fire Center reports this as one of the busiest wildfire seasons in years.
As of Thursday, more than 600 wildfires had been reported with nearly 393,000 acres burned.
While most of those blazes have been small fires on five acres or less, the total has included several recently contained, large blazes such as the nearly 108,000-acre Clay Springs Fire near Fishlake National Forest; the 48,038-acre Seeley Fire in the Manti-La Sal National Forest; the 47,384-acre Wood Hollow Fire in Sanpete County; and the 19,865-acre Wolf Den Fire in Uintah County.
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.