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Twitchell fire could grow, sending more smoke to Carbon

Winds aloft blow billows of smoke from the Twitchell Fire toward Carbon County.

Richfield Reaper associate editor

After slowing due to higher humidity from a cold front Sept. 22, the Twitchell Canyon Fire continues to burn and may pick up speed again.

However, even with rising temperatures and lower humidity, it had minimal growth from Sunday to Monday, according to information released by the Forest Service. A warming trend that is expected to continue through the week with no moisture could result in more smoke being visible from the Twitchell Canyon Fire in and about central and eastern Utah.

The fire, which has been burning since July 20, has been managed for resource benefits, said John Zapell, Fishlake National Forest public information officer. He said the fire, which was started by lightning, is a way to clear out dead plants and shrubs that are undesirable for wildlife.

As the summer progressed, September remained warm with very little water, Zapell said. He said this dried out the fuels, and when winds hit the region, the fire picked up speed.

The other management goal of the fire is to protect public and private property, wildlife habitat and natural resources. Some areas of the fire have been completely suppressed, according to the Forest Service.

The total cost of fighting the fire to date is in excess of $10.8 million, said Ken Malgren, information officer for the Twitchell fire.

The two main concerns are firefighter and public safety, Malgren said. "In extreme terrain, such as on the Twitchell Canyon Fire, it is much safer to choose where line can be safely constructed and let the fire burn to it. In some instances, low intensity fire burning brush and debris on the forest floor is desirable."

The Fishlake forest has defined boundaries of which the fire must be kept inside. As the fire front nears those boundaries, the fire is being suppressed with all available resources. One of the boundaries is Interstate 70, where a lot of effort has been put in to keep it from reaching the freeway, according to Malgren. I-70 has had intermittent closures for public safety.

One effect that can't be managed, is the smoke that has hit area communities.

The Central Utah Public Health Department issued information to help people who are being bothered by the smoke:

Stay indoors, use room air conditioners, avoid burning candles, smoking, or frying or broiling food indoors, the department recommended.

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