Great Salt Lake State Park and Marina were temporarily closed Friday afternoon due to wildfires and related power outages, according to park officials.
About 60 members of the public were evacuated from the state park when it first shuttered at about 2 p.m. Friday, a spokesperson for Utah State Parks said. As of Friday evening, it remained unclear when the park would reopen.
The Lakeshore Fire in Tooele County that prompted the closure began burning Friday near mile marker 100 on Interstate 80, a few miles west of the Great Saltair.
East of the Lakeshore Fire, the separate Lone Fire sparked and spanned about 100 acres before it burned into the Lakeshore Fire. As of 7:45 p.m. Friday, the Lakeshore Fire had burned an estimated 400 acres and was 80% contained, the Utah Bureau of Land Management reported.
The blaze burned about 40 power poles and damaged a quarter mile of railroad track.
Officials confirmed at least three fires of unknown cause along Interstate 80 between Lake Point and the Interstate 80-State Road 102 interchange as of 4 p.m. Friday.
With air resources grounded Friday afternoon due to high winds, authorities were responding with engines, water tenders and hand crews.
Power lines in the area were shut off, the Union Pacific Railroad shut down and Interstate 80 and State Road 102 were temporarily closed. Salt Lake City International Airport’s operations were not affected.
Wind caused critical fire conditions
The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning across most of the state until 10 p.m. on Saturday, as well as a high wind advisory until 10 p.m. Friday.
The blustery winds — paired with a relative humidity of 5-10% — created critical fire weather conditions in which blazes can spread rapidly.
Kayli Yardley, a fire prevention specialist with the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, told The Salt Lake Tribune that fires have been popping up across the state.
“What might have been a tiny spark is now becoming acres and acres of wildfire,” Yardley said, as a result of the dryness and erratic winds. “We don’t call it fire season anymore. It’s our fire year.”
Separate wildfire sparks in Salt Lake County
At least one other wildfire sparked in northern Utah on Friday afternoon. According to Utah Wildfire Info, the Barney Wash Fire burned about 40 acres in western Salt Lake County, near Rio Tinto’s Kennecott Copper Mine.
Fire crews responding to that site also largely worked from the ground due to grounded air resources. But by 3 p.m., several crews began being released from the scene, indicating that the fire had been somewhat contained, officials said.
A spokesperson for Rio Tinto confirmed that brush fires occurred near the mine and that local police and the Unified Fire Authority had responded to the blaze.
“There are no current threats to people and the cause of the fires remains unknown at this time,” the spokesperson said in a statement Friday afternoon. “We will continue to monitor the situation until the fires are extinguished and the sites secured.”