Logging slash may have smoldered for 18 months before igniting Utah wildfire

Church Camp fire
Church Camp fire
Church Camp fire, burnout along Highway 191. Photo credit: UT-FFSL

The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that slash burned after a logging operation on state land 22 miles south of Duchesne, Utah may have smoldered for 18 months before igniting a wildfire that burned 7,211 acres in June, 2012. The Church Camp fire was discovered June 24 and caused the evacuation of Argyle Canyon, a popular summer cabin and recreation area for Salt Lake City residents. The fire destroyed 15 homes and was suppressed at a cost of $5.7 million.

The investigation report is not yet final, but cause and origin investigators for the Utah Division of Forestry said there is no evidence that lightning, arson, or anything else — except the 18-month old slash burn — could have started the fire. They admit that it is “highly unlikely” that the slash burn was the cause, but they can’t come up with a more likely cause.

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

…One cabin owner told investigators that two weeks before the Church Camp Fire ignited, he and his daughter visited the slash pile. The cabin owner said he stepped in a 1½-inch pile of fluffy white ash that appeared to have been recently burned. The cabin owner said he suspected dirt around the pile was helping retain heat.

Also, another slash pile burned in the fall of 2011 several miles west of the Church Camp Fire reignited in the spring. The report implies this is evidence the 18-month-old burned slash pile could have reignited, too.


DC-10 dropping on Church Camp Fire
DC-10 dropping on Church Camp Fire – InciWeb photo

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

One thought on “Logging slash may have smoldered for 18 months before igniting Utah wildfire”

  1. Happens more often than you think.My Pop was a Faller for
    a good chunk of his life and worked for a couple of different logging outfits. He was always paranoid about re-ignition of slash… He’d patrol areas that they had burned just to make sure…


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