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Front Page » July 15, 2004 » Local News » Fire breaks out north of airport
Published 3,748 days ago

Fire breaks out north of airport


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate community editor


John Patterson, the pilot of "Lois," a contracted Intermountain Fire Agency helicopter leans out the window of his aircraft to see how much water the bucket he is dipping in a temporary holding tank has taken on during operations to fight a fire that was apparently caused by lightening north of the airport on Tuesday afternoon.

Price Fire Chief Kent Boyack was sitting in a Carbon County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting discussing fire flow codes when the call came. As his beeper screamed through the room, he turned and said "I have to go."

The burning reason behind his departure so quickly from the meeting was a blaze that was raging in the hills north of the Carbon County Airport, just off of Airport Road and west of the Andalex Resources mine.

The fires, which appeared to have been caused by lightening from a thunderstorm that came through the area mid-afternoon on Tuesday.

The call to the fire department came in about 4:30 p.m., and was initially reported just as a grass fire.

"It appears it actually started from a lightening bolt about 4:21 p.m." said Heather O'Hanlon, fire mitigation specialist for the BLM in a phone interview on Wednesday morning.

Initially, the Price Fire Department began to fight the fire. At that point it was about 700 feet from a well pad where the fire fighters set up. But then the fire started to make a big run toward the pad and authorities contacted the BLM and they responded as well.

"The fire was on BLM land and when the Price Fire Department contacted us we responded and asked Price to help us help with the helicopter operations at the airport," said Hal Stevens who directs local fire fighting efforts for the BLM in Price.

Stevens pointed out that federal law now prohibits local fire volunteers to fight fires on federal lands unless they have been certified, which means they have what is called a "red card."

Crews from the BLM staged from the airport began their assault on the fire by 5:30 p.m. and two helicopters flown in began to draw water from a set up tank about 7 p.m. The two aircrafts then made repeated assaults on the fire, which had by then moved almost right into the Bookcliffs, until dark.

The task for ground crews was made somewhat easier in the fact that a gas field road led up to almost the exact spot where the fire was burning. BLM fire fighters were able to park their vehicles at a well pad just a short distance away from where the brush, grass and juniper trees were being consumed.

Price fire crews stuck around at the airport until nearly dark where they continued to fill the water tank each time the aircraft returned for more water.

The helicopters worked right up until sundown when they shut down for safety reasons.

With the water dropping discontinued and evening canyon winds blowing the blaze, it began to flare up a little. But, the BLM fire fighters were able to keep it under control.

By Wednesday morning the fire was down to a controlled level with two engines and eight fire fighters still on the scene.

"The fire amounted to a 25-30 acre blaze altogether," said O'Hanlon. "Personnel will be doing a global positioning on the fire this morning to determine the exact size and to note it's location."

O'Hanlon said that the aircraft that were being used on the fire were of type one and type two designation. The ground crew on Tuesday evening consisted of 20 fire fighters.

Later in the morning Stevens said the fire size had been measured and it amounted to about 24 acres, and was now under control but would not be totally contained until about 6 p.m. Wednesday evening.

"There is a another 20 man crew from Richfield coming in to help us today," he said. "We are now in good shape."

The crew dealing with the fire also included some helitack and repellers from Idaho.

O'Hanlon also pointed out that a fire that started on July 10 in the Desolation Canyon area, and has been monitored since then, is also being fought by the helicopters at the airport.

"It's called the Trail Canyon fire," explained O'Hanlon. "And it's in a wilderness study area where we have no access. The aircraft began to fight it yesterday morning so they were in place to help out on the Price Fire, which the blaze north of the airport has been designated."

As mechanics did service on the helicopters on Wednesday morning, officials were trying to decide if more water needed to be dumped on the Price fire hot spots or if the entire effort would resume once again on the Trail Canyon fire.


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