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Car fire burns an acre of brush along I-80, closing all eastbound lanes for hours

parleys fire 2.1.jpg
Utah Highway Patrol
A truck on Interstate 80 eastbound Tuesday smolders as fire crews work to contain a nearby brush fire that it sparked.

A brushfire along I-80 Tuesday brought back memories of last year’s Parleys Canyon fire, but a huge response contained it quickly.

A truck caught fire while traveling east on I-80 Tuesday morning - as the flames spread to the shoulder and ignited a brush fire, more than 60 firefighters from 10 agencies, including a single-engine air tanker, quickly responded.

Unified Fire Authority information officer Ryan Love said fire crews considered it remarkable that things went as well as they did with the response.

“With all the fuels up there that have been preheating the last summer, all the residents that live up there, all the structures up there, there's a high priority in our canyons and our firefighters are well aware of that,” he said. “Just looking at past fires in that same area, you know, we always expect the worst and today you know, we went into that fire with the history in mind and having to evacuate all the people in years past in mind. Our firefighters are absolutely thrilled with today's outcome.”

In August 2021, a car fire believed to be caused by a faulty catalytic converter started on eastbound I-80 just east of Tuesday’s fire. That burned more than 500 acres before it was contained and caused thousands of Summit County residents to evacuate for four days. That fire, called the Parleys Canyon fire, delayed the start of the Park City School District school year as well.

Tuesday, crews dealt with heat nearing 100 degrees, which Love said contributed to the fire’s potential to grow. Some firefighters were focused on the truck fire, while others arrived in special wildland fire gear to address the spreading brush fire.

“We did jump on it as quick as we could through as many resources as we could,” he said. “Because there's no better time to fight a wildfire than an initial stage, right when it's the smallest, and so we threw as many resources as we could from all over the place, including Park City, Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake Graper, of course unified Fire Authority, the Forest Service and the DNR.”

The eastbound side of the freeway was completely closed for about 3 hours; one lane opened up at 2 p.m. and another lane opened a couple of hours after that.

Crews got the fire contained just before 2 p.m., and the burn area was estimated to be just under one acre. Investigators are working to determine why the truck caught fire. Its driver, who was not injured, was the one who called 911.

Michelle, who joined KPCW in 2021, arrived in Utah in 2018 by way of Massachusetts, where the skiing was icy and the mosquitoes formidable. A former daily newspaper reporter and editor (at the Visalia Times-Delta in CA) and columnist (at The Cohasset Mariner in MA), Michelle has been a writer and editor for decades. She holds a journalism degree from CSU Fresno and has worked as a journalist, freelance writer and web content creator, reporting extensively on education and youth along with general assignment and breaking news.