Firefighters Hope to Continue Progress on Record-Setting Utah Wildfire

July 11, 2007

Progress was being made as crews headed out Tuesday to fight a record-breaking wildfire burning in central Utah.

The size of the fire increased to 469 square miles gaining only about 11,000 acres from Monday to Tuesday morning. The fire was listed at 10 percent contained.

About 300 fire fighters were on the blaze Tuesday morning with 200 more expected to arrive, said Color County Fire Information Officer Jean Bergerson.

So far the fire, burning about 120 miles south of Salt Lake City, has raced through 311,000 acres of extremely dry sagebrush, cheat grass and pinion juniper in Millard and Beaver counties.

Bergerson said securing Interstate 15, a major north-south route for the West, was still a top priority.

The road has been closed periodically as flames jumped the interstate, smoke blackened the skies and lack of visibility contributed to a fatal crash.

The fire, sparked by lightning Friday, was the largest in Utah history.

Fire officials warned that extreme fire weather was expected to continue for the next several days. Hot, dry weather and erratic gusty winds could make containing the fire difficult.

The fire and others in the region were responsible for a smoky haze that was contributing to an unhealthy air alert in the heavily populated areas of Salt Lake, Davis, Weber and Utah counties.

One uninhabited summer home and two outbuildings have been damaged by the fire. It continued to threaten some outlying structures, but no evacuations were in place Tuesday.

The fire forced the evacuation of Cove Fort over the weekend — a historic fort built in 1847 to offer protection for pioneers traveling through the newly settled West.

A California couple on a motorcycle died after they were hit from behind on I-15 Friday.

At least six other fires were burning across Utah. The Black Rock Gulch fire on the Utah-Arizona border was burning 13,700 acres, or 21 square miles.

The Neola North fire in northeastern Utah has burned 43,511 acres, or about 68 square miles, and it was 65 percent contained. Three people were killed trying to escape the flames of that fire shortly after it started on June 29.

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