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Fire May be to Blame for 14-car Pile-up

Fire May be to Blame for 14-car Pile-up


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Gene Kennedy ReportingA 14-vehicle pile-up on I-15 killed two people Sunday near Kanosh. What happened is part of a bigger problem.

The Milford Flat fire left little or no vegetation and ash everywhere. When the wind blew, the ash and dust kicked up, followed by a massive accident. Scientists say that area needs to be re-planted and fast or we can expect more of what we had yesterday.

It was like a London fog rolling in. In each mangled car photo, the smoky conditions are visible. Four semis were involved, along with ten cars. There were 12 injuries, three of them critical, and two people died.

Plant geneticist Blair Waldron says, "It didn't surprise me because we knew 20 years ago, in a similar area, dust and ash was being carried off, causing similar problems." Plant Geneticist

It was 1986 in the same area as the Milford Flat fire. 18,000 acres were scorched and for years that followed, dust and ash blew into the air.

Howard Horton, a range scientist, says, "It was bringing traffic to a halt on I-15. The people in Utah and Salt Lake County were complaining because it was bringing air quality down."

Horton and Waldron have breeded essentially fire resistant plants in greenhouses in Logan. The grasses and shrubs survive on little water.

"They out-competed cheatgrass and the fire didn't burn that area, it stopped the fire," Waldron said.

Some critics have called the shrubs "weeds", but Horton says, "It's not a weed. It's used by wildlife, livestock, cattle."

Scientists say the key now is re-seeding the fire-ravaged areas.

Waldron said, "This year that we have a massive fire year and seed is going to be in short supply."

Short supply and 350,000-plus acres to cover.

"If we get over 50 percent of it, even 30 or 40 we may be lucky," Horton said.

Horton added that if the area can't be re-seeded, the air quality will continue to be bad and I-15 could be in danger of more ash-related accidents.

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