It could be a long, hot and busy week for Utah’s firefighters.
Even as crews braced for the usual challenges of the coming Independence Day weekend’s fireworks, extremely dry conditions, winds and hot temperatures prompted what was feared to be just the first of series of "Red Flag" wildfire danger warnings on Monday.
Within northeastern and eastcentral Utah, relative humidity was a bone-dry 7 to 11 percent on Monday. West winds of 5 to 10 mph, gusting to 30 mph, were to further dry out tinder-dry high deserts, rangelands and forests — especially in the San Rafael Swell region below 6,500 feet elevation.
A lightning-sparked wildfire in Tooele County’s Sheep Rock Mountains was 80 percent contained by Monday morning. U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Loyal Clark said crews expected to have the blaze completely contained by nightfall Monday.
The Black Crook Creek Fire had not grown beyond the 438 acres of grass, sagebrush, pinyon and juniper it had blackened since late last week, largely thanks to a coordinated state-federal "thinning" project in the remote area last year, Clark said.
"Once this fire reached that thinned-out area of pinyon and juniper, it slowed down a lot. That allowed our crews to get in there and knock it down," she said.
On Monday, 80 firefighters — aided by four engines and a water-bearing helicopter — worked to douse remaining hot spots as they watched for any new sparks outside the containment lines.
No structures were threatened and no injuries had been reported.
Clark reminded Utahns that fireworks of any kind are prohibited on all national forest and federal lands.
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.