Containment figures grow for Utah wildfires
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) ” Containment figures for wildfires burning across Utah grew Friday, an indication that firefighters have capitalized on two days of cooler weather.
The Mathis fire, just 3 square miles but dangerous because of its proximity to coal mines and methane vents, was 95 percent contained.
“We should have containment by the end of the day,” U.S. Forest Service fire information officer Carey Jones said of the fire near Kenilworth in southeastern Utah’s Book Cliffs. “It’s great news.”
Fire managers on the Black Rock Gulch fire, south of the Utah-Arizona border, were also predicting full containment by day’s end, said Scott Sticha, a fire information officer for the federal Bureau of Land Management.
The lightning-caused fire has burned 35 square miles of sagebrush and grasses along the Arizona Strip.
Utah’s largest blaze, the Milford Flat fire, was 65 percent contained, thanks in part to an intentional burn set Thursday to kill off vegetation near the town of Manderfield, fire officer Jean Bergerson said.
The fire saw little growth Thursday, increasing to 567 squares miles. So far, the central Utah blaze has scorched grass and rangeland in two counties, about 120 miles south of Salt Lake City, and has cost about $2.6 million.
Full containment is projected for July 17, Bergerson said.
No such predictions have been made for the Neola North fire in northeastern Utah. The blaze, which killed three on June 29 and destroyed a dozen homes, is 83 percent contained, Forest Service spokesman Louis Haynes said.
“They keep saying there’s still about 14 miles of line to build and in that terrain it will take a while,” Haynes said. “It’s real steep and sometimes too dangerous to put firefighters in for safety reasons.”
Still, the 68-square-mile fire did not grow overnight Thursday and crews are “feeling pretty good,” Haynes said.
“But it’s (Friday) the thirteenth, so I’d probably better not say too much good stuff today,” he joked.
Post-fire emergency work has already begun on the Vernal-area fire. The Burned Area Emergency Response Team ” including staff from the BLM, Bureau of Indian Affairs, the national parks and the Forest Service ” are working to identify places in the fire zone that present the greatest potential for future problems, including flash flooding and mudslides.
An emergency stabilization plan should be complete by next week, BAER information officer Sandee Digman said.
“Our first priority is the protection of life, then we get to property and other things,” she said.
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