PRICE — Firefighters working along U.S. 6 north of Price in Carbon County have been moved off the highway for safety reasons, not because of fire danger or falling rocks, but because of speeding and aggressive drivers passing other cars illegally on the winding canyon road.
U.S. 6 had been closed for most of the day Friday and was reopened at about 6 p.m..
State fire officials said the Bear Fire has now burned more than 9,800 acres.
A Type II federal firefighting team took control of the fire Friday evening, which means more resources, instead of only state and local fire crews.
Conditions are so dry even Jason Porter, who is a Bureau of Land Management fire manager with years of experience, has a tough time believing it's only early June.
"This is absolutely a product of drought right now," said Porter, who is working on the Bear Fire. "Talking with another specialist, we haven't seen conditions like this since back in 2001-2002, and I think we're even exceeding those extremes in several cases."
Part of the problem is because of a bad snowpack, the vegetation burning on this fire never had a chance to green up.
Hwy 6 is back open, but firefighters on the #bearfire working on the side of the highway are being moved off of it because of speeding and aggressive drivers. Earlier today, falling rocks were a hazard. We're doing a story on this fire for @KSL5TV at 10. 📷Geoff Liesik/BLM #ksltvpic.twitter.com/3Ysc2qzZwi— Alex Cabrero (@KSL_AlexCabrero) June 12, 2021
The relative humidity in the area hit 3% on Thursday.
"That's extremely low," said Porter. "Our fuels around here start burning really well anytime we get below 25% to 20%. The drier that area is, the faster the foliage and everything on that vegetation dries out."
Another big problem is the number of falling rocks in the steep canyon.
The fire is burning trees and other vegetation that used to hold those rocks in place.
Porter took a picture of one large rock that fell onto U.S. 6, which is an example of why the road had to be closed.
"Pretty scary situation in there for sure. When we see boulders the size of small cars falling onto the roadway, it's not just our hazard now, that's everyone's hazard."
Many firefighters are already working beyond their shifts to try and keep this fire from burning close to homes and infrastructure. So far, they've done a great job in doing it, while knowing it's going to be a long fire season.
"As I said, this is June," said Porter. "These folks have got to carry this on until August, September, October. We don't know."