Tunnel Hollow fire expands; danger to I-84 dissipates

Thursday , July 24, 2014 - 5:28 AM

By ANDREAS RIVERA and BEN LOCKHART

MORGAN — It has been a bad couple of days for firefighters battling the Tunnel Hollow Fire in Morgan County.

Starting around 200 acres on Monday, winds picked up and spread the fire to nearly 1,200 acres by late Tuesday, said Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands spokesman Jason Curry.

The fire, which began Sunday night, was 10 percent contained by 6 p.m., the last updated figure expected to be available until Wednesday evening.

The blaze was caused by a lightning strike, Curry said. It is located near the area of Taggart Lane, a few miles east of Morgan.

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The various crews' main concern was the fire moving toward Interstate 84 and spreading to the other side. The fire was already up against the adjacent train tracks early Tuesday.

Motorists were advised to expect delays and potential closures as smoke filled the area and fire vehicles needed to access the encroaching fire. Drivers should use caution or avoid the route altogether, Curry said early Tuesday.

The weather was much more cooperative Tuesday afternoon and evening, however, and threats to to I-84 subsided somewhat.

"There's been a much lower impact and, not even close, and no road closures," Curry said, crediting favorable winds. "Smoke was not a factor (on I-84)."

No injuries have been reported in the fire and no structures damaged. More than 100 firefighters from the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, the state Division of Forestry and Morgan County were fighting the blaze by the end of Tuesday.

Curry said the main obstacle battling the fire was the local geography.

"A lot of it has to do with terrain where the fire is burning," he said. "It's very steep and very rocky."

That challenge makes it difficult for ground crews to make in-roads, he added.

Two helicopters and two Utah National Guard Blackhawks assisted six ground crew engines at the scene.

The state Division of Forestry is also closing the Weber River for recreation such as fishing and rafting.

"We're going to look at that again tomorrow in our planning meeting and see if there's any we can open that up," Curry told the Standard-Examiner late Tuesday.

Nearby, the Indian Fire located at the mouth of Ogden Canyon was nearly 100 percent contained.

The U.S. Forest Service announced that it would be releasing all resources except for one fire engine which will monitor the fire until it is completely out. All the adjacent hiking trails that were closed such as the Bonneville Shoreline Trail were to be reopened Tuesday.

Although the fire was nearly out, the Ogden Fire Department warned that the danger of more fires is still present.

“All fireworks and open flames are restricted east of Harrison Boulevard and along the Ogden River Parkway,“ said Ogden Fire Marshal Kevin Brown in a statement. “Patrols and enforcement of the areas will be increased for the holiday period. The fire department asks for your cooperation in order for everyone to have a safe and fun 24th.”

Elsewhere in the state, multiple fire agencies were battling several wildfires in Tooele County, most believed to be started by lightning.

The largest is the Anaconda Fire which had burned at 1,000 acres just east of Tooele.

Contact reporter Andreas Rivera at 801-625-4227 or arivera@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @SE_Andreas.

Contact reporter Ben Lockhart at 801-625-4221 or blockhart@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @SE_Lockhart. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/blockhartSE.

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