TOOELE COUNTY, Utah — Lands scorched by the Jacob City Fire are now back open to the public today, but visitors say the fire damage makes the canyon look like “a different planet.”
Stockton Police Chief Travis Romney said it’ll take years to recover.
“This is our backyard. This is where we come and play and hangout and take our kids and go on picnics,” Romney said. “And it’ll never be the same.”
The sight of Soldier Canyon is a lot to take in as visitors return for the first time since the fire.
“Memories. This whole canyon, memories. All just burnt down,” said Abbie Wintle.
“There’s a lot of history in this canyon for a lot of residents of Stockton and the Rush Valley area, in general. And a lot of that history is now gone,” said Romney.
He said it cost around $6.5 million to fight the fire. Thankfully, the flames missed the town’s water filtration plant and well, along with two propane tanks right next to the well.
“We’re still waiting for some test results from the state of Utah to let us that the water coming down the canyon is free of contaminants,” Romney said.
Stockton is currently running on its emergency well using a generator provided by Tooele County Emergency Management.
If you plan on visiting Soldier Canyon and surrounding areas, the Bureau of Land Management is warning visitors to use caution and stay on designated routes. Visitors are asked to avoid the head of the canyon for now.
“You’re going to have four-wheeling trails that are off-limits now because there’s no brush to hold back the soil and people will slip and fall,” said Romney.
Wintle said the area is already too quiet.
“It’s heartbreaking, it’s devastating,” she said. “It’s my escape. It was beautiful.”
Just because the Jacob City Fire is contained doesn’t mean worries are gone. High temperatures mean a higher risk for more fires in the future. Flash floods are an additional concern now with the canyon’s burn scar.
“We’re at that point where basically Mother Nature can do anything she wants to us,” said Romney. “So hopefully we can make this through without any big damage.”