SMOKY WEATHER • Smoke from the Clay Springs fire has been plaguing East Juab residents for almost a week now. The fire has burned almost 100,000 acres in Millard and Juab County areas. Residents of Mills were evacuated last week, but have been allowed back into their homes. Photo Rebecca Dopp
By Myrna Trauntvein
The Clay Springs Fire, which began in Millard County, has now entered parts of Juab County and has, as of Tuesday morning, burned 99,671 acres, and injured two people since it began on June 27.
One summer home, a cabin, has been destroyed, two maintenance outbuildings burned and 75 homes have been threatened.
"We got damage to several other areas, some minor damage to some homes, but we only had one loss," said Millard County Sheriff Robert Dekker.
Smoke will continue to be visible in the local communities around the fire and people with health problems can have increased difficulty.
Nephi has been experiencing heavy smoke for the past several days accompanied by fire ash.
"The heaviness of the smoke depends on the direction the wind is blowing," said Juab County Sheriff Alden Orme. "We think most of the danger to Juab County has passed and, within the week, the fire should be contained."
"Even though the fire burned close to Ash Grove Cement, it did not disrupt operations there," said Don Watts, Rocky Mountain Power Community Manager.
"The fire became pretty intense and Ash Grove was put on alert for possible evacuation," said Orme. "However, the firefighters kept the blaze from shutting down the plant."
The fire does continue in the higher evelvations, said Orme.
The Department of Natural Resources suggests people stay indoors in Nephi, Mills and Levan during periods of high smoke particularly if they have compromised breathing to begin with.
Oak Canyon Road has been closed.
"Highway 132 was closed for a period of time," said Orme.
For more information, visit Utah Fire Information's Website.
By Thursday afternoon, the fire spread over a mountain and into Juab County, outside of Mills. Home owners there were put on high alert but no evacuations were called for.
"Sevier River Estates was also put on high alert," said Orme. "Some of the residents in Mills chose to leave their homes of their own accord but most of the residents chose to stay."
"We did position Juab County Search and Rescue members at those two areas overnight, until the danger had passed," said Orme.
As of Tuesday morning, the fire was 48 percent contained with 449 fire personnel assigned to battle the on-going blaze. Fire fighting resources consist of 23 engines, 8 water tenders, 5 dozers, 7 hand crews, 1 gamma goat, and 6 helicopters.
The blaze is believed to have been human started but remains under investigation.
"We have been lucky and have dodged a couple of bullets," said Watts. "We lost three customers on top of Fool Creek."
The results could have been much worse, he said.
Several communities were potentially threatened by the fire such as Mills/Levan, Sevier River Estates, Scipio, Nephi, and Leamington but there are no evacuations at present.
Fire fuels consist grass, sage and pinyon/juniper woodlands.
Residents of Oak City and Fool Creek were evacuated but all were back in their homes on Sunday.
On the northern end of the fire, crews made good progress with burnout operations ahead of the fire Sunday night to secure the northwest fire perimeter and prevent the fire from crossing Highway 132.
The northeastern portion of the fire is being held by fire line.
Firefighters on the southern end of the fire continue to secure the southwest line using a ridge to Whiskey Creek Canyon Road locating it directly on the fire edge in some cases.
The southeastern fire edge moved to a dozer line prepared on the Forest boundary overnight. Every effort is being made to hold the fire inside the southern end of the Canyon Mountains and avoid the grazing lands to the south.
Hot, dry conditions withstrong winds continue to challenge firefighting efforts. The weather forecast indicates Red Flag conditions through 10 p.m. this evening.
Town Meetings have been held in Leamington, Oak City, Scipio and Holden.
"I will be attending another fire meeting this evening (Tuesday),"said Orme.
The Southern California Incident Management Team 1 is managing the fire and is working closely with Utah State, BLM, and USFS fire management personnel to suppress the fire. They took over management of the fire from the local unit on Friday.
Local volunteer fire departments continue to provide excellent support to suppression efforts.
At the beginning of the firefighting effort, on Wednesday, two volunteer firefighters from Oak City were injured when winds changed direction.
"They were caught in swirling conditions in the winds and ended up in a tough situation," said Oak City Mayor Mike Staheli.
Cameron Neilson, one of those firefighters, was burned by the fire and taken to a Salt Lake City hospital in critical condition but is reported to be improving.
The name and condition of the other injured firefighter has not yet been released.
The weather forecast is for 97 degrees, relative humidity from 7 to 8 percent, with winds forecast between 15-20 mph with gusts to 30 mph, down from 40 mph on Wednesday.
Public Information can be obtained from 801/935-0593 and 909/379-9339 and 951/240-1124 or at the website Info: www.utahfireinfo.gov or www.inciweb.org.