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Residents on standby as fire rages in Tooele; firefighters fight blaze in Morgan

By Haley Smith | Posted - Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 10:33pm

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TOOELE COUNTY — A community in Tooele County on is standby Tuesday as a wildfire continues to char the landscape behind their homes.

The Anaconda Fire was caused by a lightning strike Sunday afternoon and was rekindled Monday due to hot weather and windy conditions. Residents from Churchwood Lane and the Pine Canyon area were evacuated Monday evening but were allowed back into their homes later that night.

The fire had torched about 1,100 acres near Pine Canyon as of 11 a.m. Tuesday morning. There are about 40 firefighters working to contain the fire, and officials have assigned 20 more to help.

As of 6:30 p.m., officials reported the fire was 25 percent contained.

Crews say because of the weather and the fire's spread in multiple directions, it's hard to contain.

"We're expecting the same kinds of conditions today as we did yesterday, very hot, windy,” said Trent Bristol with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. “So we don't have much containment on this fire."

Officials are also concerned about roaming animals and have offered help to livestock owners.

"Our rec complex is open for livestock,” said Tooele County Commissioner Jerry Hurst. “If livestock gets threatened, they can take their animals down there."

Resident Wendy Parker has 11 horses at her home, and after being temporarily evacuated Monday night, she says it's made her family think twice about having an emergency plan in place.

"It was really scary and you don't know what to grab out of your home,” Parker said. “You think about it, but when it comes down to reality, you just start grabbing whatever.”

Utah officials are urging residents to be ready to evacuate at any time.

"Be prepared, be ready — have the most important things ready to get out of the house,” Bristol said. "With the wind being what it is, there is a good chance that we might see something flare up and we can see this take off again."

Parker said she grabbed pictures, historic family furniture and some clothes Monday night, and with the fire still burning in plain sight of her backyard, she's not taking any chances.

"I was going to unpack my car that I packed last night,” she said, “but we're leaving it."

Officials were able to get in and dig a fire break behind the majority of the homes and drop retardant, so if the fire does spread, the homes should be out of harm's way.

Tunnel Hollow Fire

The dubbed Tunnel Hollow Fire east of Morgan has burned over 1,000 acres, and there's concern that it could reach I-84.

The biggest issue is getting to the blaze, which is on extremely steep and rocky terrain, according to Jason Curry with the Division of Forestry. It means that progress in fighting the fire has been slow.

"The weather and the wind and everything just blew it up the side of the mountain," Curry said.

Curry said around 6 p.m. that the fire was about 10 percent contained and had burned an estimated 1,200 acres. The fire was started by lightning.

Four helicopters with nearby fire agencies and the National Guard are dropping water onto the fire, and ground crews were forced to hike much of the way in.

"The National Guard is here, loaning use of the Blackhawk and personnel needed to do additional bucket drops," Curry said.

If the fire reaches the highway, it could mean a closure of both lanes. More than 100 firefighters — including a hotshot crew, 16 smokejumpers, 4 helicopters and 2 single-engine air tankers &mdash are on the ground working to build lines to keep the flames away from I-84.

"We've got a big potential for smoke impacting traffic," Curry said.

No structures are currently threatened. The Weber River between Croyden and Morgan is closed to any river activities.


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