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Crews battling Manti-LaSal wildfires on Nelson Mountain, near Blanding

Emergency crew members battle a wildfire on Nelson Mountain near Ferron. In addition to the Emery County blaze, Manti-LaSal National Forest personnel have focused on extinguishing a wildfire that erupted near Blanding.

Smoke filled the air in Carbon and Emery counties last weekend.

The majority of the smoky haze drifted into the skies above Castle Valley was from large fires near Cedar City and in New Mexico.

But the Manti-LaSal National Forest has also been battling two blazes, one near Ferron and one near Blanding.

A fire on Nelson Mountain five miles southeast of Ferron started around June 1 by a lightning strike.

The wildfire remained relatively small until winds whipped up the flames last weekend, according to forest officials.

The blaze, estimated at 450 acres on Monday, is visible from Ferron. The fire is burning in steep, rugged terrain on top of the mountain.

"It is very difficult and dangerous to put people near this fire because they could easily get trapped in this rugged area," warned Elaine Zieroth, forest supervisor. "We hope to use water dropped from buckets carried by a helicopter to keep the fire from spreading."

The bucket carries 1000 gallons of water at a time and will be filled at Millsite Reservoir.

Castle Valley residents using the reservoir when the helicopter is working should stay well away from the bucket with their boats.

A hotshot crew from Logan is also assisting in the fire fighting effort. The crew members are highly trained to work in steep, rocky terrain and will build fireline where they can.

A smaller helicopter will help shuttle the crew to the site, explained forest officials.

A change in the weatherto cooler, more moist air with lower wind speeds is predicted later in the week.

The predicted change in weather conditions will help the fire fighting efforts, pointed out forest officials.

There are no structures or private property threatened by the Nelson Mountain fire, but it is burning within the Ferron municipal watershed.

An important goal in fighting the blaze is to minimize damage to watershed values while protecting fire fighter and public safety.

The Nizhoni wildfire near Blanding also started on June 1, contiuned forest officials.

But the Nizhoni fire was purportedly the result of an illegal campfire getting out of control on national forest system lands.

The majority of southern Utah is under stage one fire restrictions, including the location where the blaze near Blanding started.

Under the stage one restrictions, campfires are only allowed within developed campgrounds.

The Nizhoni fire started in an area that was not in a campground.

Stage one fire restrictions are in effect for most of Carbon and Emery counties, except for the national forest lands.

The forest service anticipates going into Stage 1 restrictions soon.

The Nizhoni fire reached 2354 acres and 350 firefighters assisted in the efforts to bring the fire under control on June 9. This fire was within Blanding's municipal watershed, so watershed values were also important on this fire, as well as safety and protecting cultural resources in the area.

The fire will cost nearly $1.4 million, largely because of the extensive use of helicopter bucket drops and fire retardant dropped from air tankers.

"There has been very little spring green-up this year and vegetation is extremely dry", added Supervisor Zieroth. "We are seeing fire get up and run through places that they might not burn through in a wetter year. We are asking everyone to be extremely careful with campfires, BBQs, cigarettes and any sources or sparks this summer."

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