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Weather conditions challenge crews battling multiple Utah wildfires

Posted at 12:09 PM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-10 00:22:56-04

SALT LAKE CITY — High winds, drought conditions, and hot temperatures are not helping fire fighters contain the many wildfires still burning across the state.

The Bear Fire started about four miles Northwest of Helper on Tuesday afternoon and has grown to 5,300 acres with no containment reported. Due to high winds, hot temperatures and rugged terrain, the conditions are ideal for rapid fire growth.

U.S. 6 was closed Wednesday night at milepost 229 because of the fire. It is unknown when the road will reopen.

"The fire is on the west side of US-6 and one of our primary objectives is to keep it west of US-6," Type 3 Incident Commander Jason Porter said in a press release.

About twelve homes were threatened by the fire - it is unknown what their current status is.

“It’s burning like what we would expect in our peak season, which would be mid-July,” Incident Commander Jason Porter said about the Bear fire in a press release. “This kind of fire behavior is about a month early for us. It’s burning through north slopes that should still be wet right now.”

An investigation pointed to a lightning strike as the cause of the fire.

Read - Cox issues new water restrictions during historic drought

The Bear fire is being fought by crews from the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, and the Helper Fire Department.

In addition, a helicopter has been assigned to the incident and large air tankers are being shared with the nearby Bennion Creek Fire.

Bear Fire

The Pack Creek Fire started Wednesday and is located on the Manti-La Sal National Forest, South of Moab.

The fire is currently estimated at 120 acres and no structures are threatened originally, but winds shifted - driving the fire down the canyon and threatening multiple structures, according to Utah Fire Info.

A Facebook post by San Juan County Utah Emergency Management Wednesday night said that homes in the small community of Pack Creek have been evacuated.

"A temporary shelter is being set up at the La Sal Community Center for those people who have been displaced. The Community Center is located on Highway 46 in La Sal. If you need to utilize this shelter please contact the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office at 435-587-2237," the post said.

Part of the fire burned into an area where a fuel reduction project was finished a few years ago, which caused the fire to slow down temporarily. Officials have 50 personnel on scene and are expecting air support Thursday.

Crews had to disengage from fire attack Wednesday night due to extreme fire behavior.

The East Canyon Fire started Tuesday and prompted evacuations as the fire grew hundreds of acres in a few hours. As of Wednesday, the fire had grown to 835 acres with 45% containment.

Evacuations were lifted in the area and State Route 66 was reopened on Wednesday. Crews and air resources are still actively working to control the fire.

A red flag warning is in place for the area until 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Fire officials remarked that the fire is behaving like a wildfire would in August and that crews are seeing extremely unseasonable fire behavior for June.

East Canyon Fire public information map

The Bennion Creek Fire started Friday, June 4 and prompted the evacuation of a Boy Scout camp in the area.

Read - Kitten rescued from Provo brush fire

In an update Wednesday, officials released that the fire has burned through 1,363 acres and is 10% contained. No evacuations have been put in place, but Bennion Ridge road and Starvation road are closed as crews work to contain the flames.

Bennion Creek Fire_PIO_0609221_1623244512.jpg
Bennion Creek Fire map

Rugged terrain, wind, dry conditions and hot temperatures are making it difficult for crews to get the fire under control.

As reported on June 5, the Mammoth Fire is still spreading and has grown to 708 acres with 14 percent containment. Fire crews are taking action to safeguard Mammoth Village, as the fire is now only one mile away.

Gusty winds and low humidity is contributing to the spread of the fire--caused by a lightening strike-- through grass, fir, and pine trees.

The "Mammoth Fire" burns near Mammoth Creek in southern Utah on Saturday, June 5, 2021.

Wildfire season is in full force in Utah, with 326 total fires already reported this year, most of which were human-caused, according to the Utah Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Read - Cox urges Utahns to pray for rain amidst drought

Updates on wildfires across the state can be found here.