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Crews gain on Utah wildfires, buoyed by wet weather forecast

Published August 20, 2013 12:18 pm

Public safety • Fire lines closing, focus on mopping up hot spots.
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Cooler overnight temperatures and prospects for rain-laden storms buoyed hopes for firefighters laboring Tuesday to contain a spate of lightning-sparked blazes throughout Utah.

The largest of those, the 31,000-acre-plus Patch Springs Fire, was 80 percent contained Tuesday night. Crews assisted by water-bearing helicopters and fire retardant-laden air tankers expected to complete containment lines by late Wednesday night.

The blaze continued to occasionally flare and smolder in juniper, sagebrush and timber within a blackened area roughly south, west and east of Deseret Peak and stretching onto the Goshute Indian Reservation in Tooele County's Skull Valley.

Incident Commander Tracy Dunford characterized much of the remaining activity as mop-up of hot spots, noting that some of the 300 firefighters battling the blaze would be demobilized Tuesday.

The State Fire, having blackened nearly 30,000 acres in northern Utah's Box Elder County and southern Idaho's Pocatello Valley, was 90 percent contained as of Tuesday. However, Incident Commander Wade Christopherson indicated the blaze was all but out, with Tuesday's efforts focused on keeping ahead of smoldering and occasional "torching" activity within the fire area's interior.

State Fire crews numbered less than 150 on Tuesday as demobilization continued.

Crews also were close to taming the nearly 2,900-acre Millville Fire in Cache County. It was about 65 percent contained on Tuesday night. After having imperiled up to 170 summer homes, cabins and out-buildings last week, the blaze was no longer threatening structures.

All evacuations in Blacksmith Fork Canyon were lifted on Tuesday morning, but travelers were urged to use caution.

The 1,920-acre Rockport 5 Fire was declared 100 percent contained late Monday night. It had destroyed eight homes and dozens of outbuildings, forcing evacuation of 250 upscale Summit County homes over the weekend. Homeowners were allowed back to their residences Monday morning.

The Summit County Fire District said a fire engine would remain on site Tuesday as a precaution.

Meanwhile, about 60 firefighters had closed containment lines around the 222 Fire, which burned more than 1,600 acres of timber and grass 15 miles southwest of the Juab County town of Eureka. Tuesday's firefighting efforts primarily consisted of dousing hot spots.

Throughout the state, crews hoped for an additional boost from a series of rain-laden thunderstorms forecast to roll through the region through Wednesday evening.

remims@sltrib.com

Twitter: @remims