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SALT LAKE CITY — The Pole Creek Fire and Bald Mountain Fire in Utah County have burned over 68,000 acres combined, according to officials.
Pole Creek Fire in Spanish Fork Canyon has burned 53,853 acres as of Friday morning — more than double what it had burned Thursday night, according to fire officials on scene. The blaze is 2 percent contained.
The Bald Mountain Fire has burned 14,495 acres. Officials said the two fires are close to merging, but there was still a gap between them as of 6:30 p.m. Friday, according to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.
"This is a real emergency, and the potential to be a significant emergency depending on what happens over the next couple of days," Herbert said at a Friday evening news conference in Spanish Fork.
Over 5,000 residents from the cities of Woodland Hills and Elk Ridge, as well as residents from the Covered Bridge community in Spanish Fork Canyon, have been evacuated as firefighters continue to battle the blaze that exploded Thursday. Evacuations have also been ordered along U.S. 89 from the junction with U.S. 6 to Indianola in Sanpete County.
This picture sums up how awesome Utahns are...so thankful for the hard work of firefighters! This note was posted on the door of an evacuated Covered Bridge Canyon home. #PoleCreekFire#BaldMountainFire— Caitlin Burchill (@newsyCaitlin) September 14, 2018
Follow @jedboal & @SeanMoodyKSL for continuing coverage #KSLTV@KSL5TVpic.twitter.com/qv5zOltbIp
U.S. 6 reopened early Friday after the fires forced its closure, but U.S. 89 remains closed through parts of Spanish Fork Canyon as the Pole Creek Fire burns through Utah County. The Nebo Loop Road and Nephi Canyon Road are closed at the turnoff from state Route 132 in Juab County.
No homes have burned, but a plastic fence melted as the fire came right up to a house, officials said.
A Type 1 Team will take over command of the firefighting effort, which means additional resources will be utilized Friday.
"This is a big deal. You should know this is not only the number one priority for the state, obviously, it's the number one fire priority for the nation right now," said Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox during a meeting at Salem Hills High School where evacuees needing shelter or assistance can gather. "That means we get resources, and the resources are coming, and they're coming as quickly as they can."
Senate candidate Mitt Romney also spoke at the meeting, though Cox assured the crowd that Romney was not there campaigning but working instead on assessing how the federal government could make better decisions when fighting wildfires.
"This is really inexcusable, in my view, that these fires keep happening," Romney said to applause and some cries of "You're campaigning!"
Cox has criticized officials' decisions to let the fire burn when it first began. A lightning strike sparked the Pole Creek Fire Sept. 6.
Get the latest updates on Utah's fires below. This story will be updated throughout the day.