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Wildfire threatening homes in Utah County a top priority as blaze grows to 68,500 acres

Posted at 7:22 AM, Sep 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-14 23:35:32-04

UPDATE: The Utah County Commission stated that it plans to submit a "Crisis Declaration" Saturday morning as the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain fires continue to grow.

"Utah County will be submitting a crisis declaration Saturday morning," the commission wrote. "Elected officials and fire officials will be providing additional comment and updates to the media regarding this declaration at approximately 10:45 am at the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds."

Story continues below:

UTAH COUNTY -- US 6 is open again Friday morning, but hundreds of people remain evacuated and other roads are closed as a pair of wildfires burn on more than 60,000 acres near Spanish Fork.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said this fight is not just the top fire priority in Utah, but in the country at the moment. Two Type 1 teams are in the process of taking over command of the fire.

The Pole Creek and Bald Mountain fires have grown rapidly this week and appear to have merged into one large blaze, and as of Friday morning the combined acreage is estimated at 68,500 acres.

The Pole Creek Fire is estimated at 54,000 acres with 2 percent containment, and the Bald Mountain Fire at 14,5000 acres with no containment.

Much of Utah is under fire weather warnings Friday, and the Utah County Health Department has issued a Wildfire Smoke Advisory. 

Hundreds of people were evacuated Thursday night, and many are taking refuge at Salem Hills High School.

Many residents have evacuated in the communities of Woodland Hills, Elk Ridge and Covered Bridge in Utah County. The Utah County Sheriff's Office said as of about 10:45 a.m. Friday that those areas remain evacuated along with US Highway 89 "from Thistle to Birdseye".

The sheriff's office said deputies will be out assisting with emergency needs at homes in the affected areas.

The US Postal services says residents evacuated in Elk Ridge and Payson Canyon may pick up their mail at the Payson Post Office while those evacuated in Woodland Hills can get their mail at the Salem Post Office.

Nebo School District said as of Thursday night, school will be held at all locations Friday. However, bus routes in areas under evacuation orders will not be run. The district says more updates will posted on their web page throughout the day Friday. 

Some animals were also being evacuated to the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds, while parts of Spanish Fork City are on a pre-evacuation notice.

Strong winds have fueled the tremendous growth of the fire,

"We're expecting the wind to just blow," said Chief Seth Waite of the Elk Ridge Fire Department. "It's been blowing now for the past couple of days really hard. That's what pulled the fire down is the wind."

As of Friday morning, US 6 had reopened but US 89 remains closed from the US 6 junction/mile post 312 to the Utah/San Pete County Line.

The Nebo Loop Scenic Byway, Mona Pole Canyon road, and Santaquin Canyon road have all been closed. A pair of maps show the most recent order for Forest Service closures:

The Pole Creek Fire ignited September 6 and was determined to be lightning caused.

The Bald Mountain Fire is also believed to be lightning caused and has been burning since the end of August.

Fox 13 News has a crew at the scene of the fire, check back for updates.