Gov. Cox: Those who start Utah wildfires ‘will be held responsible’; weekend blazes still scorching acres

Crews continue to battle several area wildfires, including the Jacob City fire in Tooele County, had burned over 4,000 acres as of Monday afternoon.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gov. Spencer Cox speaks in front of the Jacob City fire outside Stockton in Tooele County on Monday, July 11, 2022. Crews continue to battle several area wildfires that sparked over the hot, windy weekend — many of which officials believe were human-caused.

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With a wildfire as his backdrop and helicopters clopping nearby, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox gave a stern warning Monday to anyone who sparks a blaze in the state.

“You will be held responsible if you start a fire,” Cox said Monday in Tooele County, with the Jacob City fire burning miles behind him. “You will be held civilly responsible and you may be held criminally responsible if you violate any laws in starting that fire.”

“You don’t want that to happen, OK?” Cox continued. “You don’t want to burn down your neighborhood, burn down other people’s homes [or] be held responsible for those things. So please, please, please be careful.”

Cox gave updates during a Monday afternoon news conference outside of Stockton as several wildfires rage throughout Utah. The fires have burned over 13,000 acres over the last three days, Cox said.

Parleys Canyon fire sparks

After a windy, wildfire-filled weekend, Utah firefighters early Monday began battling a new wildfire in Parleys Canyon, which had burned about 10 acres as of 1 p.m.

The new wildfire was discovered just before 2 a.m. Monday, according to Utah Wildfire Info. The Parleys Canyon fire, dubbed the Little Dell fire, is not threatening any communities as of Monday afternoon, officials said.

As of 11 a.m. it was 60% contained, and it was burning with a low rate of spread. Officials suspect it was human-caused.

4 arrested, accused of starting Halfway Hill fire

(Utah Fire Info) A helicopter dips from a “pumpkin" water tank to suppress flames from the Halfway Hill Fire near Fillmore.

One of the largest weekend wildfires was sparked south of Fillmore, called the Halfway Hill fire. At last report, it had burned 10,141 acres and forced the evacuation of the Virginia Hills subdivision.

Four people were arrested and accused of starting the Halfway Hill blaze, police said. According to a probable cause statement, the four started a fire at a campsite — which investigators determined was where the wildfire began — then “left abruptly.”

When the campers were contacted by investigators, they said they had attempted to extinguish the fire before they left the area. They told police that after seeing the fire erupt and spread rapidly, “they were concerned that their fire may have been the cause.”

But they did not contact any fire or police personnel to report it, police said. They were arrested on suspicion of abandoning a fire that caused property damage of $1,000 or more, according to the probable cause statement.

The blaze is 0% contained, according to wildfire officials. The Virginia Hills subdivision remains under evacuation, and drivers in the area can expect increased traffic as crews continue to battle the fire.

Cox and others encouraged Utahns to be careful statewide, and he discouraged people from having campfires, citing the Halfway Hill Fire as an example of what not to do.

Utah wildfire updates:

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Jacob City Fire burns amid dry grass outside Stockton, Tooele County, Monday, July 11, 2022.

Jacob City fire • The fire has burned over 4,000 acres, said Dan Walton, a Tooele County fire warden, during the Monday news conference.

According to fire officials, the fire ignited on Saturday afternoon east of Stockton when a generator in a recreational vehicle exploded.

Crews worked the fire overnight Sunday into Monday. Walton said there are 186 people working on the blaze, which includes five helicopters.

Though the wildfire remains active, officials said most fire activity has been internal, within its current perimeter.

Dry Creek fire • The fire northwest of Scipio has burned 1,826 acres and is 40% contained, according to Utah Wildfire Info. It, too, was human-caused.

On Friday, the Oak Creek Campground was evacuated because of the fire. On Saturday, campers were escorted back to the area to retrieve their belongings.

Firefighters on Monday continued to work on securing the fire’s edge. Smoke was expected to be visible, but minimal.

Sardine Canyon fire • The fire northeast of Brigham City had burned about 50 acres and also was suspected to have been human-caused. Utah Wildfire Info reported that the fire was 100% contained on Monday evening.

It initially threatened about 15 to 20 structures, but evacuation orders were later lifted.

Cox said Monday the northern Utah fire was likely caused by a hot car or RV parking on dry grass.