Range fires scorch northern Utah

Monday , August 12, 2013 - 9:39 AM

Nancy Van Valkenburg, Andreas Rivera

Firefighters of Northern Utah were kept busy this weekend by several fires. Hot and dry conditions have increased fire risk substantially, with grass and forest fires breaking out.

A range fire encompassing about 11,000 acres near the border of Utah and Idaho could be seen from the small town of Portage. The fire was 38 percent contained by Saturday evening, but Portage was alerted to flames reaching within a mile of the town. No evacuations were ordered, and the threat was judged minimal, said Jennifer Hansen, of the Division of Fires, Forestry and State Lands.

The fire began Thursday evening from a lightning strike. Most of the burned land is private property, but about 500 acres are held by the Bureau of Land Management in North Canyon, Idaho.

The fire made a significant push to the north and east. Crews fighting the blaze included 19 engines and two helicopters with a total of 213personnel.

The State Line Road and Portage Canyon Road have been closed for public safety and to allow access to fire crews.

Cache County

A forest fire began Friday in the Mount Naomi Wilderness, just northeast of Logan. The blaze, most likely caused by lightning, was burning brush at about six acres and kept under watch, but as of Saturday evening, there were no firefighter resources to dedicate to it due to the Portage fire.

Kathy Jo Pollock, of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest Service, said as soon as the other fire was deemed under control, then firefighters could be transferred to deal with it, which she expected to happen early Monday morning.



Weber County

A quick-moving grass fire burned about five acres Saturday afternoon at an old dump site north of 21st Street at about 700 West.

Fire trucks from five departments responded to a call that came in at 1:08 p.m.,extinguishing the fire within about an hour.

“The fire was racing all over, because of the wind,” said Capt. David Nielsen of the Weber County Fire Department. “The ground is soft, because it’s a layer of dirt over construction waste. It’s an odd place.”

Nielsen said the fire was started by accident, likely resulting from a spark from grinding or welding by crews on site because of 21st Street road work.

“We’ve been there for a number of different fires over the years,” Nielsen said. “The earth is soft, and it’s hard to maneuver trucks.”

Loaders from the Weber County Transfer station offered to help and cut a fire line to keep flames from spreading further, Nielsen said.

“We tried to control the whole thing and get a handle on it before it got into the Parkway,” Nielsen said, speaking of the treed recreational area and walking path located just to the east.

“It burned right up to those trees before we stopped it,” he said.

Besides Weber Fire, agencies that responded were Ogden’s North View FireStation, and the Ogden, Riverdale and Roy fire departments.

“This time of year you have to over-respond,” Nielsen said. “You bring out all the resources you can because of wind and dryness. It’s a red flag warning day, and moisture is very low.”

No one was hurt as a result of the grass fire, Nielsen said.

Davis County

A South Weber family is displaced after a fire burned through the exterior of their home late Friday night.

The fire began around 10:30 p.m.

Flames spread across the two-story house, which was tucked away down a dirt road. Firefighters had to haul a high-capacity hose 300 feet from the nearest hydrant, according to the Davis County sheriff’s office.

The fire began after a mulch pile had self-combusted and was further fueled by a nearby lawnmower. In dry conditions, a decomposing mass such as mulch radiates a lot of heat, making it possible to spark a fire.

The homeowner was out of state at the time of the fire.

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