A fire that started late Sunday in Argyle Canyon has now jumped into another canyon and has moved from a small status fire to a much larger one. The fire has been dubbed the Church Camp Fire by the interagency fire agency.
"The report of it being a 100 acre fire this morning has really changed in the last four hours," said Mike Lefler, a spokesman for the fire team at the site on Monday evening. "It crossed over into another canyon and has approached the ridge to the west. It probably involves a few hundred acres now."
Later on Monday night the fire did grow, up to about 1000 acres. Some structures have burned, but teams cannot assess which have because the conditions are still too dangerous. High temperatures, low humidity (13 percent) and winds caused the fire fighters no lack of grief. A series of thunderstorms came through the area, and one or two produced enough rain to get the ground wet, butit wasn't enough to make much difference on the fire line.
Lefler was stationed just off Highway 191 at the Indian Canyon summit and was waiting for an action plan for dozens of new fire fighters who had showed up with engines and brush trucks from places like Roosevelt City, Altamont, Duchesne, Myton and other fire fighting units in the Uintah Basin.
The fire exhibited extreme fire behavior including crowning, torching and spotting. The fire is currently 0% contained and is burning in timber consisting of Douglas fir, Pinion Juniper, brush and grass. As of last report it (Tuesday morning) it is moving to the northeast. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Price residents woke up Monday morning smelling smoke and thinking it was from the fire in Sanpete County, but it was actually from the Argyle Canyon fire. The fire has forced the evacuation of 100-150 cabins in the area.
"I think we have everyone out," said Lefler on Monday afternoon. "The Duchesne County Sheriff's Department has been clearing people out but you can never be 100 percent certain."
The fire is being fought by more than 100 fire fighters and two helicopters, four single seat air tankers, 8 engines, 2 water tenders and 2 bulldozers. A large jet air tanker also made one pass but Lefler said that would be the only one for today because "they are committed elsewhere."
But later information spelled out that the plane may return. The DC-10 (VLAT, very large air tanker) can drop up to 11,000 gallons of retardant or water on a fire at one time. This is four times that amount any other tankers in use in the United States can dump. The plane is out of California but can only be filled with materials at a few bases. The plane that was used Monday was refueled and resupplied in Boise, Idaho. It was the first time this large of an aircraft has been used to fight a fire in Utah. It also has to have a special lead plane that is trained to do the flight with the DC-10 to lead it into areas on the fire.
"I saw it come in low over the trees," said the driver of a fuel transport truck from the Uintah Basin that was on site to resupply fire crews equipment. "It came in and it was a site to see." While the plane is in use in the United States tests in Australia where it was considered for use in 2010 led officials there to be concerned about the amount of material it dumped all at once. They feared that it drops so much that it could injure people and damage structures.
Crews in Argyle Canyon are fighting to keep the fire away from as many structures as possible and to keep it from approaching Highway 191, a vital energy route from Carbon County to the Uintah Basin.
A Type 2 Incident Management Team has been ordered and expected to take control of the Church Camp Fire at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Keep watching the Sun Advocate website for updates.