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Looking Back On The 2018 Fire Season In Summit County

As October draws to a close so does fire season. KPCW takes a look back at some of the larger fires in Summit County this year. 

One of the early fires in the season was the Tollgate Canyon Fire. According to the Summit County Sheriff’s Department the fire was caused when dragging chains on a trailer sparked causing the fire to erupt. Summit County Fire Marshall Bryce Boyer explains what happened next.

“It started right at the entrance of Tollgate Canyon. It quickly spread and became about 286 acres moving primarily to the East. That’s why no evacuations up Silver Creek Canyon or Tollgate Canyon back towards the Park City area were made or even pre-notifications. Fire wasn’t any threat in that direction we had the canyon road we had the aircraft on it quickly and the winds were carrying it more towards the east along the Interstate. Based on the fire activity which was spotting out ahead of the fire, as soon as a spot would start it would grow rapidly so it wasn’t really safe to get firefighters on the ground. Between the heavy equipment and the aircraft we were able to get a containment line on it which then gave the on the ground firefighters an opportunity to get in.”

The Tervels or Echo fire was human caused and seemed to be part of connected arson that stretched along I-80 throughout Utah and into Wyoming. Boyer says they were coming from a fire at the I-80/I-84 junction when they received word of the Tervels fire.

“It was probably already about three-quarters of an acre it was windy. We had it about caught and a gust of wind came up at about 25-30 mph and just kind of pushed it up and across the hill. We had about 30-40 flame lengths on it. You don’t really want to have folks in front of that, made the order through the interagency fire center for an air attack platform. Which is an aircraft that flies over the fire to give you more eyes. Once it arrived they started recommending and ordering additional helicopters and fixed wing air tankers which assisted greatly. Based on the steepness and the type of terrain it was in. Also got the county dozer out to it we were able to get some line pushed in ultimately get it contained and stopped. Nothing was threatened from it, no homes or anything.”

The Mirror Lake Complex was made up of two fires in the Kamas area, the Slate and Murdock Fires. Both fires were caused by lightning strikes on U.S. Forest Service land

“Where these fires were burning there really weren’t any values at risk. No infrastructure, no homes, any of that kind of thing. The area on the Slate Fire that had a potential to threaten the Weber Canyon area. They put a lot more aircraft and resources in where they could. It was steep rocky terrain. The other thing that played a part in where they could get firefighters in was the amount of fire load, or the fuels available to burn. Having a safety zone or a place that the firefighters could get to if things got really hot or the fire blew up. So, had to take into consideration where it was safe to put firefighters. It was a total of about 6,000 acres last I heard between the two of them. It did really well at burning up a lot of the dead, down and the underbrush which will help improve the forest health, wildlife, water quality and so on in the long run.”

Boyer said that they were able to get the resources they needed to fight the fires.

“We were able to get what we needed. Sometimes a little slower but that’s because of the high demand on the resources. The public did really good at being a lot more cautious, with the exception of a few. What we were seeing was fires were rapidly spreading this year, if an ember got in out in front of the main and started a spot fire it was very susceptible to starting and carrying fire. Aircraft was used quite a bit in the county this year. In past years we’ve been able to just do it with just ground resources and the fire departments.”

KPCW reporter David Boyle covers all things in the Heber Valley as well as sports and breaking news.
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