Investigators calling Utah County fires suspicious

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UTAH COUNTY -- Firefighters made significant progress Tuesday in fighting two wildfires in Utah County.

The Mapleton Fire, which has burned almost 150 acres in Mapleton Canyon, is now 100 percent contained. The Hobble Creek Fire, which has burned roughly 200 acres in Hobble Creek Canyon, is 75 percent contained.

Fire investigators say they have a pretty good idea as to how the fires started, but they are not releasing many details. Witnesses say there was an older-model SUV in both canyons when the fires started, leading investigators to call the fires suspicious.

In both cases, the spot where the fires started is right off the road.

"Cigarettes, trailers, you know, start fires as well. So, at this point we don't know," said Jennifer Sullivan, with the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

It's too soon to say these fires are arson cases, but investigators say the cause is no doubt human and suspicious.

Helicopters have been dumping water on the flames, and more than 100 firefighters are on the ground digging fire lines. The biggest help, however, has been the weather.

"The cool temperatures--about 3:00 or 4:00 this morning the fire actually laid down, so it kind of just calmed down," Sullivan said. "We're not seeing much flames. And you know, it's just right now, it's mostly burning in the interior. So, it's not, the fire's really not growing at this point."

Crews also received reinforcements from out of state Tuesday. Forest service spokesperson Loyal Clark says three 20-person hot shot crews arrived from Nevada Tuesday morning. In addition, they got the help of a sky crane helicopter from Pocatello, Idaho, that can carry large amounts of water. Other helicopters and air tankers have already been working the fires.

Clark says both fires are burning up the mountains away from homes, but the flames are reaching steeper areas that make them more difficult to fight.

Travel in the canyons has been restricted, and fire officials are asking people to stay out of the area so the fire suppression crews can move freely without dealing with traffic from onlookers.


Story compiled with contributions from Alex Cabrero and Randall Jeppesen.


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