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Front Page » September 25, 2007 » Local News » Weekend rainstorms assist crews battling wildfire near Sc...
Published 2,584 days ago

Weekend rainstorms assist crews battling wildfire near Scofield


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher


A skycrane helicopter collects water from Scofield Reservoir as the wildfire burning at French Creek smolders in the background last Friday afternoon. Ground and air teams were battling to contain the blaze and the eastern boundary was secured on Saturday before the rains came down in the Manti-LaSal Mountains. The downpours doused the fire in fairly effective fashion. Some emergency crews remain at the scene to make certain that the fire does not flare up again as the warmer weather expected toward the end of the week may dry out dead and fallen timber at the site.

A wildfire fire burning since Sept. 11 in the mountains west of Scofield Reservoir was nearly extinguished by heavy weekend rains.

In a Sept. 24 press release, officials lifted closures to areas including the Fish Creek campground, C Canyon Trail junction, Gooseberry Creek junction, Fish Creek ridge and Commissary Spring junction.

According to the release, crews will continue to work the fire as needed, monitoring potential fuels as they dry out following the weekend storms.

On Sunday, hot shots who had been battling the blaze could be seen in town shopping as a small crew watched the area where the fire was raging.

The wildfire threatened no structures and forced no evacuations, but added a great deal of smoke to the atmosphere of Castle Country in the last week. The blaze on the Manti-LaSal National Forest was named the French Creek wildland fire.

The weather has cooled the fire to the nearly the point of extinction. Residents can expect to continue to see some smoke in the area.

Crews completed and secured the fire line on the east side of the blaze on Saturday before the rains came.

The fire's origin was determined to be lightning caused last week during the height of the blaze.

French Creek is in the Fish Creek drainage and the wildfire was burning in beetle-killed spruce, fir, aspen and sagebrush. Approximate acreage of the fire last Saturday was 3,380 acres.

Despite the fact the fire is almost out, road, trail and campground closures will continue to a certain extent.

The closures will be evaluated and lifted when it is safe for the public to use facilities in the area.

The United States Forest Service anticipates the reopening of the areas in question to occur in the next few days.

Closures currently include Fish Creek Campground, C Canyon Trail junction, Gooseberry Creek junction, Fish Creek ridge and Commissary Spring junction.

On Sunday, officials said the affected area was not meant to be burned at the present time. But lightning caused fires such as the French Creek incident being used to accomplish resource objectives as outlined in the Manti-La Sal Forest's management plan.

According to the USFS, the plan allows naturally ignited blazes to burn within designated wildland fire use areas under specific management guidelines. Fire is allowed to play its natural role on the landscape. Thr fires are used for a variety of resource benefits, including improvement to wildlife habitat for mule deer and elk, and reduction of the build-up of hazardous dead and downed fuels. These kinds of fires may increase the potential for localized soil erosion, but they also can reduce the potential for large-scale debris flows and mudslides associated with large-scale wild fires. WFU fires can also reduce fire suppression costs and keep firefighters available for priority fire suppression efforts elsewhere.

During the process monitoring of the blaze is a high priority. Fire managers review the fire's progress and weather forecasts to determine if the fire stays in pre-designated boundaries and that resource objectives are being met.

The USFS says that WFU is generally a long duration event. Fires may burn until snow or rain put them out, or they may burn for only one or two days.

Despite the length and size of this fire it has mostly been under the radar of the media in the state. The fact that it was burning in an area where no structures were threatened and that it was a WFU has mostly kept information about it off the upstate media channels.

On Friday a television truck from Salt Lake did show up and do a short broadcast about the blaze. Compared to other fires in the state, and the Mathis fire locally in July, this fire season, the French Creek blaze has been largely considered a minor event.

Compared to the fires in the Uintah Basin, along I-15 in Beaver County and the Mathis fire in Willow Creek Canyon the fire had little play in the press.



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