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1996: Flood, fire and a viral epidemic hit county

Tents set up on the lawn at East Carbon High School in July of 1996 housed fire fighters for a few days during a blaze that burned over 1,200 acres west of East Carbon/Sunnyside.

Sun Advocate publisher

Editor's Note: This is one of a series of articles about the history of the Sun Advocate and the county it covers as a newspaper. The article is being written from front page stories that appeared during each year in commemoration of the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth in 1891.

In early January Castleview Hospital announced that a respiratory infection had affected dozens of people in the area and that they had set up a special ward just to treat these victims. That ward of the hospital was being closely monitored and people going in and out were restricted because of the chance of spreading respiratory syncytial virus around the community more than it had already been spread. The virus affected mostly those under two years of age (and there were 56 in the hospital at the time the article was written).

Late January brought word that Cyprus Plateau Mining Corporation was going to move their operations from the soon to be played out mine in Wattis to the old Castle Gate Mine site in Price Canyon. The Sun Advocate stated at the time they had received word that the new operation would start up sometime in the summer of 1997. It was also stated that all employees at the Wattis operation would be offered jobs at the new Willow Creek mine as well.

Three Carbon County Sheriff's Deputies along with a Helper policeman were able to rescue an elderly woman from a home in Spring Glen that was filled with smoke in early in February. Guy Adams and Steven Raber found her at the top of some stairs but the smoke became almost to much for them as Sgt. Roy Robinson and Helper Patrolman Scott Blackburn rushed in to help them. It was later found that the furnace had malfunctioned and no fire had taken place. The officers were lauded for saving the woman's life.

In May the Sun Advocate made a big change in May as Brehm Communications Inc. of Rancho Bernardo (San Diego), Calif. purchased the paper along with the Emery County Progress from Hometown Communication. At the time no changes in staff were made with Kevin Ashby, who had been the publisher since 1993 remaining in the captain's seat at the papers. The Brehm Company owned and operated 60 papers in Utah (Richfield Reaper at the time of the purchase), Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Arizona, Nevada and California. The company retains ownership of both papers to this day.

In June it was announced that two companies planned to build a power plant in the Hiawatha area. The initial information said that American Syngas, Inc. and Carbon Company Inc. were going to break ground within the year for the plant which would provide 400 construction jobs over 2.5 years and permanent power plant jobs for 80 to 100 people. The power plant was planned to use the coal fines that were left behind from mining operations in the area to run its boilers to turn the turbines. The county also said it would develop an industrial revenue bond to help substantiate the financial package that the company presented.

In July the Department of Transportation (United States Surface Transportation Board) approved a $5.4 billion merger of the Denver Rio Grande and Western Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad. The merger would mean that for the first time in a century, another railroad would be controlling the lines that run through Carbon County. The Rio Grande had been the first to put lines through the area in the 1880s.

In August a 1,200 acre blaze west of East Carbon brought fire fighters from all over the county and from federal agencies to control it. The fear of the lightning caused fire running into both East Carbon and Sunnyside was very real. Volunteers from both towns came to help battle the blaze that took four hours to control and a bit longer to totally put out. A camp was set up on the lawns at East Carbon High to house all the out-of-town fire fighters who came in during the emergency.

Flash floods on Sept. 13 caused by heavy rains impacted the Price and particularly the Wellington areas. At least a dozen homes in Wellington had their basements flooded by the overwhelming water caused by a storm that in some places laid down up to eight inches of hail on the warm late summer ground. In some places mud filled crawl spaces and cars were stalled on Highway 6 by high water coming across the road. The Utah Highway Patrol had to close the road for a time.

Word of the death of probably the most well known Price native was received in 1996. J. Bracken Lee passed away at the age of 97 years old in Salt Lake City. Lee had been a large force in the political scene in both Carbon County and the state over his years. He had been the mayor of Price for six terms, two terms as mayor of Salt Lake City and two terms as governor of Utah. He also ran for both house Congress, elections he never won. Lee was well know for his outspokenness and for some of the things he did during the years he held office at the various venues. In many ways he would fit in well with much of the conservative movement in the country today because of his stance, which was usually against the federal government's ways of handling things and spending.

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