Click here to print this page Fire updates: Pole Creek Fire, Bald Mountain Fire in Utah County burn over 68K acres
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.
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.
More evacuations in effect in Wallsburg after new fire starts
All residents living on Little Valley Road in Wallsburg have been evacuated after a new fire started late Friday evening.
The fire started about 7:30 p.m., according to Wasatch County Fire Department Spokeswoman Janet Carson. It had burned about 5 acres as of 8:30 p.m.
Carson was not sure exactly how many homes were evacuated. People who are evacuated should go to the Wallsburg Town Hall, she said.
Governor responds to criticism of U.S. Forest Service as Pole Creek Fire rages
Gov. Gary Herbert said Friday that while some things could be done better in managing Utah's forests, it's not the time for finger-pointing as crews continue fighting the voracious Pole Creek and Bald Mountain wildfires.
Herbert responded to questions over a critical tweet his right-hand man, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, sent out on Thursday.
Cox called the U.S. Forest Service's decision-making with regard to the Pole Creek Fire "inept."
The fire started Sept. 6 with a lightning strike. The Forest Service allowed it to continue burning in order to reduce heavy fuels in the area and improve wildlife habitat.
Herbert said Friday that the state shouldn't be waiting for lightning strikes to clear out underbrush. Public lands managers should be more proactive about keeping Utah's forests healthy, he said.
"I think we can do better," Herbert said.
1 home evacuated after new fire sparks in Wallsburg
A new fire sparked Friday evening about 7:30 p.m. in Wallsburg in Wasatch County, officials said.
The fire has burned 4-5 acres near the intersection of Little Valley Road and Stark Lane, Wasatch County Fire Department spokeswoman Janet Carson said.
One home was being threatened by the blaze and had been evacuated as of 8:30 p.m., Carson said. The cause of the fire was still unknown at that time.
Gov. Herbert: No structures destroyed, emergency declaration in effect for Pole Creek Fire
No structures have been destroyed so far in the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain fires, according to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.
Utah County Commissioners issued an emergency declaration for the fires, which is in effect as of Friday evening, Herbert said in a Facebook post.
The two fires are currently the top firefighting priority in the nation, and a "tremendous amount" of resources are on the way to the state, Herbert said.
However, there is no end in sight to the situation, he added. Fire activity is expected to continue over the next several days, he said.
State official: 'We're just at the beginning' of the Pole Creek Fire
State officials said Friday that the next few days will be difficult, as the Pole Creek Fire wreaks havoc in Utah County.
"I can’t understate this though, this is a difficult fire and we have a number of difficult days ahead of us," Utah State Forester Brian Cottam said at a Friday evening news conference in Spanish Fork. "We’re just at the beginning of this event."
At the news conference, Gov. Gary Herbert said the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain fires did not see much movement Friday, and it was a relatively good day.
There is still a gap between the two fires, Herbert said, though officials anticipate that they may combine at some point.
There was no change in acreage for the fires as of Friday evening. Combined, the two have burned 68,347 acres, Herbert said.
People should conserve water, natural gas, food and other resources, Herbert said. People should also listen to local officials, and if authorities say to leave, they should obey, he added.
"It's time to make sure that we do our part as citizens," the governor said.
As of 6:30 p.m. Friday, 437 firefighters were assigned to the blaze, Herbert said. He anticipated that there would be 1,000 or more fighting the fire in the coming days.
Pole Creek Fire public meeting scheduled for Saturday
A community meeting for the Pole Creek Fire has been scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday at the Salem Hills High School auditorium, 150 Skyhawk Boulevard in Salem.
The Great Basin Incident Management team in charge of the fire will be providing the most current information about the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain wildfires during the meeting,
according to Inciweb, the federal wildfire information website. Limited access points set up for evacuated residents in Woodland Hills and Elk Ridge
Access points have been set up for evacuated residents in Woodland Hills and Elk Ridge who have an urgent need to get back to their homes.
Access points are available at 11200 S. Woodland Hills Drive in Woodland Hills, as well as 11200 S. Loafer Canyon Road and 11200 S. Elk Ridge Drive in Elk Ridge, Utah County Sheriff's officials
said on the agency's website.
People who need to get back to their homes for needs such as obtaining medications or releasing pets and livestock can go to those access points.
Access may be unavailable for people evacuated from the Covered Bridge Canyon community due to firefighting efforts, officials said. Sheriff's deputies may be able to escort people in that community to their homes.
Air support finally able to fight Pole Creek Fire
After strong winds prevented air resources from fighting the raging Pole Creek Fire in Utah and Juab counties, air tankers are now on the scene.
Four air tankers were fighting the fire as of 3 p.m., with two more on the way, Salem Police Department officials said on Facebook. Two helicopters were also working the fire.
Winds may pick up later Friday afternoon, but pilots were taking advantage of the calmer conditions, officials said.
Various sporting events cancelled in Utah and Juab counties
Several school sporting events scheduled Friday have been canceled as smoke from the Pole Creek Fire is affecting air quality.
The Salem Hills High School football game against Corner Canyon High School has been canceled. The girls sophomore soccer game, cross country meet and mattress fundraiser at Salem Hills High School have also been canceled.
Other canceled events include the Maple Mountain High School cross country meet, Spanish Fork High School soccer and cross country and the Springville High School band social.
Red Cross collecting donations for evacuees Pole Creek Fire impacts mail delivery
Residents in the Elk Ridge, Payson Canyon and Woodland Hills area who have evacuated their homes because of the fire can pick up their mail at alternate locations, the U.S. Postal Service said in an emailed statement Friday.
Those evacuated in the Elk Ridge and Payson Canyon areas may pick up their mail at the Payson Post Office, 955 E. 100 North. Those evacuated in the Woodland Hills area may pick up their mail at the Salem Post Office at 134 E. 200 North.
Customers are asked to present photo identification when picking up their mail.
Fire perimeter maps of the Pole Creek Fire
The perimeter maps of the Pole Creek Fire show data from Monday — before the blaze's explosive growth. These maps will be updated as more information becomes available.
Graphic: Josh Furlong, KSL.com Pole Creek Fire, Bald Mountain Fire in Utah County burn a combined 68K acres No changes to pre-evacuation status in Spanish Fork, Payson areas, police say Officials at Pole Creek Fire expect extremely active fire behavior Friday Nebo School District tells families not to worry about missing school U.S. Highway 6 reopens, U.S. Highway 89 remains closed in Utah County
U.S. Highway 6 reopened at 1:48 a.m. Friday, according to a Utah Highway Patrol official. U.S. Highway 89 remains closed in both directions from approximately Birdseye to Thistle, the KSL Traffic Center reported.
Evacuations remain in place for Woodland Hills, Elk Ridge, and Covered Bridge in Spanish Fork Canyon. Many affected residents gathered at the evacuation center at Salem Hills High School in Salem.
The Pole Creek Fire was ignited by lightning last week along the Nebo Loop Road. It has burned 20,000 acres and is 2 percent contained, Forest Service officials said.
Nebo School District: School open Friday
Classes will be held in the Nebo School District, according to a Facebook post from the district Thursday night.
"Unless local authorities inform us otherwise, the decision has been made that school will held at all locations tomorrow morning (9/14/18).
"Buses will not run in areas that are under mandatory evacuation orders. Information will be sent tomorrow (Friday) regarding afternoon bus routes as we receive more up-to-date information.
"If you would like further information regarding bus routes or school closures, please feel free to visit this
site. Updated information will be posted here as soon as it becomes available."