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Firefighters deal with heavy emotions as they battle the Morgan Canyon Fire

Firefighters were making progress on the Morgan Canyon Fire in Tooele County on Saturday, June 26, 2021, but some were emotional about how the fire started. (Stuart Johnson, KSL TV)


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RUSH VALLEY, Tooele County — Fire officials said the Morgan Canyon Fire in Tooele County is looking much better as crews have reached 40% containment, but some firefighters are still feeling emotional about how this one started.

Even with as beautiful as the views are, those who live in the Big Hollow Road area of Tooele County didn't like what they were seeing.

"That second day, it was moving pretty fast," said Troy Robinson, who lives at the mouth of the canyon.

A wildfire was burning in Morgan Canyon, and with the dry conditions, Robinson said it was getting scary.

"We were packed and ready to go," he said.

Firefighters got on the fire fast when it started burning on June 18. However, even the most experienced among them ran into terrain they don't see very often.

"The problems that they've run into in that canyon have been tough," said Robinson, who knows the area well. "It's a new experience for them."

Firefighters had to deal with extremely steep terrain, falling trees, rocks, and rattlesnakes, on slopes that made digging a containment line nearly impossible.

"You can't drive vehicles in there because it's a wilderness, but also, you can't walk in there," said Toby Weed, the U.S. Forest Service public information officer for the Morgan Canyon Fire. "The helicopter has been looking for places to land and they can't even find a place to land on the ridge because it's so steep."

For as difficult as the terrain has been, though, some firefighters said their emotions in dealing with the cause of this fire were even tougher.

The fire began when a small airplane crashed, killing a woman and her 6-year-old granddaughter.

"The 6-year-old victim reminds me of my daughters when they were that age, and it reminds people of their granddaughters, and it makes it really difficult to discuss," said Weed.

Even with the steep terrain, firefighters had to get to the wreckage and secure it as best as possible so federal investigators could figure out what went wrong.

"Most of the time, firefighters don't witness these kinds of things, and it was quite tough for the first responders," said Weed.

At the incident command base in the South Rim area of Tooele County, people left thank you notes for firefighters for the job they did.

By Saturday afternoon, the fire was 40% contained and 500 acres have burned, but it was looking a lot better.

"You can barely see any smoke right now," said Weed.

It's the kind of view people who live in the area don't mind seeing. They also liked seeing how quickly firefighters responded.

"We were darn glad to see them up here," said Robinson with a laugh. "They did a great job."

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