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BLM fighting huge fire in Skull Valley


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TOOELE COUNTY -- Of all the fires burning in northern Utah right now, the Bureau of Land Management says its top priority is the Big Pole Fire, which is burning in the Skull Valley area of Tooele County. More than 22,000 acres have burned, all because of a lightning strike early Thursday morning.

Even though Skull Valley is considered a remote area, the BLM says there are several structures right in the path of this fire. Already, firefighters say one ranch was hit, but they haven't been able to get to that ranch to see if any buildings were lost.

"It's terrible. That's our house that it's surrounding. It's surrounding our house, and it's burned all our winter pasture," said Skull Valley rancher Dee Jensen.

Jensen and her husband, Jerry, run Lone Rock Ranch. It's a cattle ranch they've been calling home for 25 years.

The Jensens have seen fires before, but none have ever made them this nervous.

"This one is the closest, and by far the fastest we've ever seen," Dee said.

But as close as the fire got, it didn't get to the Jensens' house.

Several fire crews in the middle of the smoke are surrounding the Jensen's home. Crews even sprayed foam on the house and dug a fire line hoping to keep the fire away.

"They watered down my house because we have a wood house," Dee said.

The biggest problem for firefighters now is all the wind. Until it dies down, they really can't keep the fire under control.

"It can just make the fire very erratic," said Brenyn Lohmoelder, with the BLM.

Lohmoelder says winds in the area were close to 40 miles an hour, pushing the fire to burn at about 60 miles an hour. Several times, the wind forced crews to retreat their positions fighting it.

"It makes it really tough, but safety is our priority. So, we try to keep the structures safe," Lohmoelder said.

"I wouldn't live here if it wasn't for these guys," Jerry said. "They risk their lives every day of the year out here."

And as that fire continues to burn, Skull Valley Highway--which is Highway 196, and the only road which runs through that area--is closed. The wind continues to worry fire crews.

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com

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Alex Cabrero

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