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Crews make progress on nearly 10,000-acre Bear Fire in Carbon County

Posted at 11:19 PM, Jun 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-13 01:24:53-04

HELPER, Utah — The fight on the Bear Fire went much better Saturday with winds dying down.

“We are seeing decreased winds, and that’s really helping our firefighting efforts,” said Adrienne Freeman, a spokesperson for the Bear Fire response.

But triple digit temperatures loom over the next several days, and that brings increased danger.

The main concern lies with the safety of fire crews. They often have to carry dozens of pounds of equipment up steep terrain in full-coverage gear.

“They will carefully monitor themselves and their crewmates to make sure that they are staying safe,” Freeman said. “We do train in these conditions, but the threat is very real for these firefighters.”

The fire has been taken over by a "Type 2" incident management team, which provides even more resources from various states.

READ: Tracking the latest on Utah's wildfires

The team is led out of California and is joined by firefighters from Arizona and Nevada.

“[The team] helps to manage a fire whose resources are getting beyond the scope of one agency or one unit,” Freeman said. “We are national resources, and so are most of the firefighters here.”

But the outlook is promising. The long term forecast, while hot, doesn’t show any strong winds in the fire’s future.

That's good news for Steven Adams, whose home is close to the fire.

He stopped by incident command Saturday and commended firefighters for their efforts.

"They’ve just done an amazing job with controlling the fire the best they can," Adams said. "The terrain is unbelievably difficult.”

As crews get a handle on the ground, their air support is running strong at the nearby Carbon County Municipal Airport.

"Right now we’re flying a lot of retardant… with a little water for hot spots,” said Don Clark, the deck manager for the fire.

Clark’s job is to manage the inbound and outbound aircraft at the makeshift base, as well as organizing all the crews on the ground who refuel and manage the aircraft.

They have helicopters on this fire, ranging from light helicopters that are used for spotting, medium helicopters such as Blackhawks that carry buckets of retardant or water to the fire lines, and then some large or “heavy” helicopters that can lay heavier line or drop larger loads of water.

Two more aircraft are also on their way as part of more resources ordered to help fight this fire.

The crews working on the aerial side of things take safety very seriously because of the potential for danger with the coming and going of all of the aircraft.

“Safety is everything,” Clark said.

Air resources are often misunderstood on fires, with the most people seeing them as the best way to put of the fire.

Instead, these machines are used as just another tool in the overall arsenal of firefighting to give targeted attacks to specific parts of the fire as well as laying a perimeter of fire retardant.

The other main goal of the air crews is to assist and help the crews on the ground. They constantly communicate with what is called an AirTac, flying high above the whole fire to call the shots.

“Pretty much everyone on this deck right now has been on a hot shot crew, so out on a line… We know what it's like out there,” Clark said. “So we are doing everything we can to support that firefighter that’s out there.”

The new incident management team will also be holding a public briefing in the town of Helper Sunday at 7 p.m.

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