An evacuation order issued for residents near a Weber County wildfire was lifted Saturday night, but the blaze still forced roads and trails to stay closed Sunday afternoon.
Authorities say the Art Nord Fire near Snowbasin Resort and Pineview Reservoir was caused by target shooting. On Saturday, the fire came within feet of damaging homes in the area because of the “heavy fuel” made of grass and brush that it burned through.
“You could see the burn scars in the hillside 20 feet away from a house,” said David Reed, Weber Fire District deputy chief.
But firefighters worked to reinforce the containment line, preventing the fire from reaching six structures in the area. As of Sunday afternoon, the fire had burned 46.3 acres and was considered 5% contained.
The top of Old Snowbasin Road to the Art Nord Trailhead remains closed Sunday, along with the Wheeler Trail system of hiking and biking trails. State Highway 39 will close in the area when fire crews use a helicopter to get water from nearby Pineview Reservoir to use on the blaze.
The fire was started by a man in his 20s, who reportedly pulled over to the side of the road and shot at a plastic water bottle with a 9 mm handgun, officials say. When he saw that his shot had ricocheted and sparked the blaze, he called 911 and tried to help put the fire out. About 50 homes were evacuated, but officials say the fire would have been much worse if the man had fled the scene.
“If he would have just ran off, I don’t know how soon someone would have called,” said Reed. “We could have lost some homes.”
The Weber County Sheriff’s Office reported the fire started near 5200 Old Snowbasin Road in the Art Nord area of Huntsville. Crews at the Weber Fire District responded to calls of a grass fire Saturday around 4:30 p.m.
More than 50 firefighters were called to the scene, using four engines and aerial support from four single-engine air tankers, two heavy air tankers and two helicopters to combat the blaze.
The efforts were successful enough for the evacuation order to be lifted at 10 p.m. on Saturday, though crews remained in the area throughout the night to monitor the blaze.
Reed advised gun owners to either conserve their ammo until drought conditions improve or to use indoor firing ranges to prevent another fire like this from being sparked in the future.
— Tribune reporter Andy Larsen contributed to this story.