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Front Page » June 20, 2002 » Local News » Blaze rages on hillside near Helper
Published 4,855 days ago

Blaze rages on hillside near Helper

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Staff reporter

A June 18 blaze that started about 1 p.m. when a Helper resident allegedly attempted to burn garbage in a barrel continued to demand attention of fire fighters from several agencies on Wednesday morning.

Units from Helper were initially called to the scene of the blaze. Then Price fire crews were dispatched to the scene and told to bring as many pumper units as possible.

The fire occurred on the west side of U.S. Highway 6 behind the homes near mile marker 233.

Local emergency units responded initially at the bottom of the hill.

But after about 20 minutes of battling the blaze and keeping it from damaging structures in the area, it was apparent the hoses of the fire fighters would not reach the flames that had travelled up the hill toward the top of the ridge.

Some fire fighters went up the hill with shovels, but the fast moving blaze made quick work of the weeds and dry grass on the steep slope.

Every time the fire encountered a cedar tree, the plants almost took off like a dry piece of paper.

Few trees existed on the slope so the fire movement was not as strong as it could have been if there was more fuel.

Trees cover the mesa on top of the slope and fire units headed toward the ridge via the Helper Gun Club road.

The first two units to arrive on top were a Price engine which was too big to fit down the narrow paths to meet the blaze and a smaller bush fire fighter truck that was able to make it to the ridge after a few minutes.

By then, Price firemen had walked through the thick trees with shovels and United States Bureau of Land Management crews were also on top of the ridge.

The fire fighters arrived as the blaze was approaching the crest of the cliff.

Several trees on top started to burn, but the crews were able to keep the fire mostly contained on the slope.

Luckily, the wind was blowing from the west so the fire was not as apt to spread onto the mesa.

All in all, crews from four different agencies battled the blaze. But the fire wasn't the only problem.

The conflagration was visible from U.S. 6 and people began to stop on the side of the road to watch it burn.

The situation created some near traffic accidents.

Officers from the Utah Highway Patrol, Helper police and the Carbon County Sheriff's Office focused on traffic control and told motorists to move on.

"There was a lady in front of me driving through the area of the fire and she had to slam on her brakes because of someone was pulling back onto the travel lane after watching the fire," pointed out UHP Trooper Jason Marshall. "It's wasn't very safe with people doing that kind of stuff."

The incident served as an example of why the open fire season closed three weeks early for 2002. Open burn permits are literally non-existent due to tinder dry conditions.

"We aren't at what we call a red flag day right now," explained Rudy Sandoval, fire warden for the Carbon-Emery County area, Tuesday afternoon "But we are under extreme conditions. No permits have been issued or are being issued at this time."

Later in the day, hot spots in the fire zone flared up when the wind began to blow harder.

Helper's fire department had just been released from the scene and BLM emergency personnel along with state crews were fighting the blaze. BLM crews stayed overnight to monitor the remnants of the blaze and state crews returned Wednesday morning to keep watch on hot spots.

The investigation into what ignited the blaze remains ongoing and any citations or charges are pending.

In a wildfire-related development, the Price-Ferron and Sanpete ranger districts along with all locations on Fishlake National Forest will be imposing stage one restrictions on the designated areas beginning June 25.

The restrictions affect the Manti-LaSal National Forest in Carbon and Emery counties.

The stage one regulations prohibit open fires or campfires outside of developed recreation sites.

The guidelines also prohibit the discharging of fireworks.

In addition, the stage one fire regulations restrict smoking to enclosed vehicles or buildings, developed recreation sites or areas cleared of flammable materials.

The stage one regulations do not prohibit propane stoves.

Violations of the stage one fire restrictions can be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a one-year sentence in prison.

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