Firefighters battling fires throughout Utah, Gov. calls in National Guard


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PORTAGE, Box Elder County — The Utah National Guard responded to a request from Gov. Gary Herbert Sunday to help extinguish two fires started by lightning in northern Utah.

Herbert authorized the Utah National Guard to help fight the State fire burning near the town of Portage in Box Elder County, and the Millville fire, south of Logan. The request came after the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands sent the governor an emergency request for help.

Ally Isom, deputy chief of staff for the governor, said two Blackhawk helicopters were deployed to help with the State fire where the city of Portage and an adjacent community in Idaho were being threatened. One Blackhawk was sent to the Millville fire.

"(The fire) had erupted and was jumping the fire line in a very steep canyon area so they needed additional air assault," Isom said.

She said the helicopter previously working the fire in Portage was redeployed to another fire in Cache County and crews were short on resources.

"We've actually had a manageable fire season," Isom said. "We've had a number of incidents, we're staying on top of them. We'd like to keep it that way and not lose any life or structure."

Jennifer Hansen, a spokesperson with the Utah Division of Fire, Forestry and State Lands, said the State fire had grown to more than 11,000 acres and was 38 percent contained as of Sunday evening.

Hansen said with consistent wind Sunday, the fire was moving north into Idaho. She said crews were working to keep the fire away from communities to the east.

"We're just trying to keep the fire heading in an area that it won't become a problem for communities along this area," she said.

Idaho Bureau of Land Management issued a field delegation of authority and Utah crews are fighting the fire with some Idaho resources, Hansen said.

State Forestry officials said the National Guard Blackhawk helicopters will fight flames in the steep canyon west of Portage and in Millville.

As of Sunday evening the Millville fire had burned 1,800 acres and not contained. Millville Canyon remains closed.

Isom said last fire season Herbert deployed the National Guard for three separate fires.

"This is the first time this year and it's later into the fire season than last years deployment," she said.

Elsewhere, a fire in the Stansberry Mountain area outside the Goshute indian reservation quickly grew from just a few acres to 3,000 and was threatening several structures late Sunday night.

Joanna Wilson, fire information office for the bureau of land management, said low humidity, high temperatures and strong winds blew the fire from 10-30 acres into the thousands.

"It was burning in brush and grass and with the winds it pushed the fire up into the juniper trees, which are very dry and the fire became very big very quickly," Wilson said.

The fire sent smoke across the Wasatch Front Sunday night, providing a dramatic sunset but also serving as a reminder that fires can erupt quickly in August.

The Patch Springs Fire which was also burning in the Skull Valley area of Tooele County.

The fire grew quickly from about 30 acres Sunday morning to 3,000 Sunday night. Fire crews said the fire is threatening several structures. Five engines and a water tender were on scene, and there was no containment.

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