Suspect fined after lantern sparks grass fire near ‘Y’ in Provo

Posted at 9:05 AM, Jul 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-15 23:55:28-04

PROVO, Utah - A brush fire broke out around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday just below the monumental "Y" in Provo.

Flames were about 30 feet high when crews arrived, and the Forest Service brought in a helicopter to help extinguish the flames.

A group of hikers told fire crews they lit a Chinese lantern on the hillside, which they believe started the blaze.

There are signs posted throughout the area that fireworks are not permitted on the trail. And there's a $500 fine attached for anyone who lights them.

Four fire departments and about 20 firefighters immediately began digging a line around the fire to prevent it from spreading.

"They did have difficulty with the winds to begin with," said Dean York with the Provo Fire Department. "We had people that were still on the ‘Y’ and on the Y Trail that also had to be escorted down so they were at risk for time."

Firefighters said it was too difficult to get water to the mountain, so the Forest Service flew the water in.

"Provo City then worked with the Forest Service, I think at about 2 a.m., and turned it over to our agency," said Stacey Weems with the National Forest Service.

York said the people who lit the Chinese lantern will be fined and may also be required to cover some of the costs for extinguishing the fire.

"The Forest Service and the legal department will decide how they want to pursue [it]," he said. "A lot of the time, it will be the insurance companies who are charged for these, and the person who ultimately caused it could still be on the hook for what's left."

Residents who often hike the Y Trail said it's a good reminder to heed warnings about fire danger on the mountain and said it's disappointing to see one of the city's most prominent monuments damaged by fire.

"People go up there a lot, even if you're not from BYU--you go up there with family, and for an acre to be burned, I mean, obviously, that's not good to anything,” said Hiker Brad Fellows. “I mean, it ruins the landscape and what they've done up there.”

The trail was closed much of Wednesday, but just before 8:30 p.m. Forest Service personnel said the trail had been reopened now that the fire has been contained. Officials expected to have the fire controlled by 6 p.m. Thursday.