What began as a small, 300-acre controlled burn 10 days ago, turned into a Type 2 wildfire that has so far scorched more than 7,000 acres of forest and creeped down Huntington Canyon to as close as a quarter-mile from PacifiCorps’ Huntington Plant.
The plant was safer Wednesday than it was Monday and Tuesday, but for residents of north Emery County worries persist that springs feeding water to the communities of Elmo, Cleveland, Lawrence and parts of Huntington will remain compromised.
Authorities are urging residents in those communities to conserve water until the threat has subsided.
A news release issued Wednesday afternoon enumerates the resources being thrown at the Trail Mountain Fire: 262 personnel, 11 engines, and 5 helicopters.
Those on the ground report the blaze is only 10 percent contained, which means any changes in weather or wind could further complicate this already ugly start to wildfire season.
The Trail Mountain Fire morphed into a Type 2 wildfire quickly. Firefighters from the Great Basin Type 2 Incident Management Team 4, with specialized training in multiple levels of fire suppression and wildland fire operations were asked to take over on Tuesday, according to an update provided by the U.S. Forest Service.
The Incident Management Team, under the command of Tim Roide, was brought in to relieve local resources. The team will continue full suppression efforts on the fire, utilizing ground and aerial resources until the spread can be contained.
Equipment is being brought in to reopen roads on the west side of the fire to allow firefighters better access to the fire perimeter on Trail Mountain.
Firefighters are looking for natural and man-made breaks in the terrain, according to the latest update available at press time, including previous burn areas, where firefighters have the highest probability of successfully containing while providing for the safety of firefighters and the public.
The team’s objectives include keeping the fire west of Huntington Canyon Road and minimizing the impact to private property, infrastructure and natural resources.
The fire crossed into Meetinghouse Canyon and south to Whetstone Creek where a cabin was burned Monday, the U.S. Forest Service reported.
Indian Creek Campground was closed along with numerous roads in and out of the area. Evacuations have not been ordered so far, but workers at Huntington Plant and nearby mining operations were concerned earlier in the week that smoke and flames would force them to leave.
Wednesday’s weather was expected to be hotter and drier than Tuesday’s, with increased winds, further making life difficult for those working to contain the fire.
The Incident Management Team reported concerns about weather causing further headaches by this weekend—a possibility of critical weather conditions were reported for today, ahead of projected thunderstorms on Friday and rain over the weekend.
An incident command post is in place at Emery High School in Castle Dale, which provides firefighters with food, water, sleeping areas, medical supplies, and other support.
Residents and visitors should expect increased traffic in and around the neighboring communities and along Highway 31.
Caution is urged when traveling through the area. Incident management it also cautioning people from attempting to get anywhere near the fire.
The Manti-La Sal National Forest has enacted a closure area, including Indian Creek Campground, Forest Trail 0051, and Forest Roads 0034, 2302, 2181, 2180, and 2182.
The size of the closure area is likely to grow as the fire has moved further north.
Residents who receive water from North Emery Water Users is encouraged to direct any questions about water quality and usage during this period to North Emery Water Users.
The forest service reported earlier that the Trail Mountain Fire is burning in mixed conifer, with large amounts of dead and down timber. It is spotting up to a mile, leaving islands of green aspen and sage untouched.
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