Hunting gets the green light in parts that were closed after central Utah’s Pole Creek Fire

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A helicopter flies over the Pole Creek Fire near Elk Ridge, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018.

To the relief of big-game hunters, the U.S. Forest Service has reopened some areas affected by central Utah’s Pole Creek and Bald Mountain fires, including Diamond Fork Canyon and all roads and trails north of U.S. Highway 6.

Much of the 100,000-acre burn area in the Wasatch Mountains southeast of Provo had been closed since Sept. 12, when high winds kicked two small lightning-sparked fires near Mount Nebo into fast-moving infernos. The closures were originally set to lift Oct. 15, a few days before elk season was to end Oct. 18.

The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, however, recently extended the closure to Nov. 30 while it re-evaluated hazardous conditions on the ground in the wake of the fire. That decision sparked an outcry from hunters who held coveted tags to hunt the state’s Mount Nebo unit — even after state wildlife official extended elk season until Oct. 30 in areas affected by the fires.

An extended closure would have effectively quashed up to 300 hunters’ hopes for bagging an elk this fall. Last week, though, forest Supervisor David Whittekiend lifted closures in several places:

• Santaquin Canyon to Trumbolt day-use site.

• Mona Pole Road to the intersection with the Mount Nebo Scenic Byway.

• Mount Nebo Scenic Byway on the south end to the intersection with the Mona Pole road.

• Pole Creek road to the Haystack Hill area.

• Salt Creek road to Cottonwood campground.

Other areas will remain closed, because the potential for falling trees and debris flows could jeopardize public safety.