Firefighters suffered a setback at the Pinyon Wildfire on the Utah National Guard’s Camp Williams on Wednesday afternoon as Herriman residents went on alert.
No new evacuations had been ordered as of about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, but officials activated the city’s emergency management team and warned people to ready in case the 4,500-acre blaze moved their way.
The firefighting effort took a turn about 3:30 p.m., when a fresh pocket of juniper went up in flames, sending embers over containment lines and spreading the blaze outward, said Fire Information Officer Kim Osborn. Containment dropped from 40 percent to 10 percent as winds drove the fire north and east as officials prepared for high winds predicted for Wednesday night.
"We have lookouts posted out on the ridge line ... if they see the fire approach or cross certain points, they’ll give notice down below," said Unified Fire Authority spokesman Cliff Burningham. Residents would then have up to two hours to evacuate, unless high winds worsen the blaze.
Lightning sparked the blaze Sunday, and it has already consumed part of a model Afghan village set up for training on Camp Williams and prompted an overnight evacuation, now lifted, of dozens of homes in Eagle Mountain.
Herriman residents have already been evacuated once this year, in the June Rose Crest fire. And thousands were also evacuated, some for days, in the 2010 Machine Gun fire that destroyed three homes.
The nearly 300 firefighters, along with helicopters and air tankers, were able to keep the fire from possible unexploded shells at an artillery practice area Wednesday, though it remained a concern. Guard Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Morbach, an ordnance-disposal expert, said the artillery training range has been operational for nearly a century. He warned that there are possibly thousands of artillery shells of various sizes, as well as dud bullets, lying in and on the grounds. A large artillery shell could scatter shrapnel up to a mile away, he said.
Meanwhile, dry, hot weather and gusty winds prompted the National Weather to issue a "Red Flag" wildfire danger warning for central Utah and the western desert regions even as crews fought wildfires across the state.
In Tooele County, nine miles northwest of Vernon, the Faust Wildfire had blackened 16,000 acres. While no homes or other structures were threatened, Fire Information Officer Cami Lee said officials were worried the about fate of livestock grazing in the area. Sparked by lightning on Sunday, the blaze was burning on Bureau of Land Management, state and private lands containing timber, grass, brush and juniper.
About 150 firefighters contained 10 percent of the fire, with full containment expected Sunday. "We’ve been doing burnouts [setting backfires to rob the blaze of fuel] and that’s gone pretty well. The wind also has been favorable for us today," Lee said.
Meanwhile, Carbon County officials reported a new wildfire in Crandall Canyon. Located near State Road 6, the approximately 85-acre Royal Castle fire forced evacuations at the Price recreation area campground, according to the county’s emergency management officials.
The West Mountain Wildfire was 95 percent contained after having burned nearly 2,450 acres in Washington County. That blaze, being fought by 100 firefighters and helicopters on Wednesday, began with a lightning strike Saturday. Fire Information Office Nick Howell said no structures had been lost or threatened and no injuries reported from the fire, which was flaring in pockets of cheat grass and brush.
The Pyramid Wildfire, ignited by lightning on Sunday northwest of the Washington County town of Enterprise, was 100 percent contained as of Wednesday morning. It burned 51 acres.
The Pine Canyon Wildfire, near Grouse Creek in Box Elder County, was 100 percent contained Wednesday after having burned 400 acres.
Lightning also was being blamed Wednesday for a new wildfire in Washington County. The Atchinson Fire had burned 50 acres about two miles east of the community of Central and was about 55 percent contained as of Wednesday night. No injuries or property damage were reported.
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