Fireworks likely cause of wildfire above Centerville; home evacuations lifted


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CENTERVILLE — Fireworks appear to be the cause of a fire in the foothills that started late Sunday night, police said Monday.

It led to 89 home evacuations in the area overnight; however, those were lifted just before 6 a.m. as the fire moved away from homes. Some of the streets in the area remain closed due to firefighting activity, according to Centerville police. A pair of planned holiday festivities — the Centerville City 4th of July Parade and Freedom Run — were canceled because resources devoted to the fire.

"Fire suppression efforts will continue to impact the parade and 5K run routes into the morning. Additionally, the public safety resources needed to ensure (the) safety of the event are not available," police wrote on social media.

Centerville police posted on Facebook about the fire in the foothills.
Centerville police posted on Facebook about the fire in the foothills. (Photo: Centerville Police Department via Facebook)

The Deuel Creek Fire is estimated at 128 acres, and remains 0% contained, as of Monday afternoon, according to Utah Fire Info, which is run by state and federal firefighting agencies. Local, state and federal firefighters all helped fight the fire overnight. A Type 3 wildland firefighting team is assigned to the fire, meaning that additional firefighting resources are expected "throughout the day."

About 80 personnel, including seven engines and helicopters, were deployed to the scene by the afternoon.

Centerville Police Lt. Allen Ackerson told KSL-TV that people may not be able to see a lot of smoke if they drive near the fire, but the crews are nowhere near done making sure the fire is completely out. Officials are asking people to avoid the area as firefighters try to contain the blaze.

"The fire is far from being out," he said, standing several blocks west of the fire. "It's still burning, you just can't see it from the side we're at right now."

The fire broke out just before midnight by the Deuel Creek Trail, which Ackerson describes as one of the city's "more popular trails" in the foothills. Scores of people posted photos and videos of the fire as it moved its way up the foothills.

Flames were fanned by winds amid very dry conditions due to the ongoing severe drought in the area. Eight different agencies were assigned to the fire overnight, and winds moved the flames away from homes, which allowed for the evacuations to be lifted within hours.

"One of the reasons they were able to knock down the fire so fast is they were able to get so many assets on scene, all the firefighters up on the mountains, so fast," Ackerson said.

Firefighters said Monday afternoon that the fire is "less active" than when it began; however, officials still caution that residents may be evacuated again and should be ready to vacate "at a moment's notice" just in case there is a shift in the fire pattern.

The exact cause of the fire remains under investigation, though fireworks are suspected. Ackerson said that "natural causes" have been ruled out in the investigation, meaning that it is a human-caused fire.

Authorities suspect fireworks because it is legal to light fireworks from Saturday through Tuesday in Utah, in celebration of the July 4 holiday. While legal, Centerville designates areas east of 400 East at Parrish Lane and east of 600 East at 100 South as no-firework zones because of the location's proximity to the wildland foothills.

Officials are asking for anyone who might have information about what happened to call Centerville police at 801-292-8441.

An image of a post from Utah Fire Info on Monday night is asking for information to assist the investigation into a wildfire that started late Sunday in the foothills above Centerville.
An image of a post from Utah Fire Info on Monday night is asking for information to assist the investigation into a wildfire that started late Sunday in the foothills above Centerville. (Photo: Screenshot via Facebook)

One car was on the road where the fire is believed to have started, and a sergeant got the license plate number before the car left the scene, according to police.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning earlier in the day, which warns that hot temperatures, windy conditions and low humidity may result in dangerous fire activity. A similar warning is in effect Monday for most of the state, while crews continue to fight the Deuel Creek Fire.

"Though it is Independence Day, we urge you to avoid activities that may cause sparks," the agency tweeted. "Any fires that develop will spread quickly!"

Contributing: Karah Brackin, KSL-TV

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.

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