Unified Fire Authority deployed 40 firefighters and two single-engine air tankers to combat a wildfire in Millcreek on Thursday, but that was only the beginning of a hectic night for residents of the Mount Olympus neighborhood.
The fire, located at 3600 East and 3000 South near the mouth of Parleys Canyon, burned 2 acres of land but was later contained, officials say. No residents were evacuated, but officials report that the fire had threatened multiple nearby structures.
Firefighters responded to reports of a fire on a hillside east of Interstate 215 around 2:30 p.m. They attacked the fire from the west to prevent it from reaching nearby homes.
Officials say a hiking trail at the top of the hill and water left over from rainstorms last week prevented the fire from spreading farther.
The cause of the fire is under investigation at this time.
While the firefighters were able to contain the fire quickly, the blaze led to other problems in the nearby Mount Olympus neighborhood. Resident Richard Williamson left work early when his wife told him about the fire and was relieved when it was under control, but he said “things just kind of cascaded from there.”
Thursday’s battle with the blaze caused two water mains in the area to break, one on Teton Road and one on Warr Road. Firefighters were using a hydrant on the corner of Cascade Road and Warr Road for the fire, Williamson said, and quickly opening and closing access to fire hydrants can cause additional pressure to be sent into the surrounding pipes, officials say.
When water started spewing out of the broken pipe on Warr Road and rushing down the street, where Williamson lives, he scrambled alongside his neighbors to grab sandbags and snow shovels in an attempt to redirect the water from the home of a family on vacation.
“The street’s been pushed up in multiple places,” Williamson said. “It started going down one side of the street but then as the road was bulging and lifting up, it started coming down both sides.”
The flood of water created a 4-foot-by-4-foot sinkhole in the asphalt on Warr Road that Williamson estimates was about 3 feet deep.
Unified Fire confirmed the damage to Salt Lake City Water Department main lines and said the broken pipe did not limit firefighters’ efforts to combat the blaze.
Williamson said pipes break every three months or so in the neighborhood.
“This is not an unusual thing,” said Teton Drive resident Karen Christopulos. “We’ve been here 40 years, and it’s happened at least three or four times.”
Williamson said he noticed the flooding start once the fire was nearly extinguished, and the water department stopped the flow some time later. Water usage in the area will remain shut off as crews work into the night to fix the broken mains.
“It happens every once in a while, and I understand, but it would be nice to have Millcreek City and Salt Lake City Water get together and decide the infrastructure and how to prioritize where to fix things, so that these things don’t keep happening to citizens of this area,” Williamson said.
Williamson is a member of the Mt. Olympus Community Council and says that the council will make recommendations to Millcreek City to prevent the flooding from happening again.
“Water mains and infrastructure surely do need our attention,” Williamson said.