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Tooele Co. residents question firefighters’ use of reservoir water

Posted at 6:19 PM, Aug 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-01 21:47:16-04

TOOELE COUNTY, Utah — The Middle Canyon Fire is 77% contained Wednesday, but Tooele County Emergency Management said locals have had questions and concerns about the firefighters using the Settlement Canyon Reservoir water to put it out.

Since Thursday, crews have been working on the fire, which has burned 171 acres. Tooele County Emergency Manager Bucky Whitehouse said the buckets used in aerial firefighting efforts can carry up to 750 gallons of water.

“Any time there’s a wildfire, every gallon of water is calculated that is used on the fire,” Whitehouse said.

Whitehouse noted Tooele County is in drought conditions and locals have raised concerns for lands using irrigation water from the Settlement Canyon Reservoir.

“We’ve got to get water from the closest source so it can get to the mountain as fast as possible,” Whitehouse explained. “Then we have the challenge of having to try not to fly over any populated areas—just for safety reasons—so that particular source that’s in the canyon seemed the most logical for this fire.”

Middle Canyon Fire Spokeswoman Susanne Tracy said using the reservoir has been especially helpful because of the steep, rocky terrain making this fire very dangerous for crews on the ground to fight.

“Resources are challenging and continue to be challenging,” Tracy said. “I think we’ve been extremely lucky to have the resources that we’ve needed.”

Down at the reservoir, families were still fishing around the banks. Dennis Hunsaker, who lives in Tooele, said he doesn’t mind that the firefighters are using the reservoir because it’s not a lake.

“It’s made to hold water for a purpose,” Hunsaker said. “A lake is something that was made by Mother Nature and this was made by big machines and man, for a purpose.”

Sitting with his fishing pole, Hunsaker continued “firemen are people, and they’re helping other people so they should be first. If they don’t have the water, it’s going to burn.”