Extreme weather expected on Trail Mountain Fire Thursday

It began as a prescribed fire that escaped on June 6 in central Utah

Trail Mountain Fire

Above: A pyrocumulus cloud forms over the Trail Mountain Fire, as seen from Joes Valley Reservoir June 13, 2018. Inciweb photo.

At 9:31 a.m. on Thursday the relative humidity at the Mill Fork Canyon weather station near the Trail Mountain Fire in Utah had already dropped to 12 percent and will likely get even lower with the predicted Red Flag Warning conditions. During the night it never got above 30 percent. A mapping flight Wednesday evening showed that the fire had burned 9,554 acres.

The forecast for Thursday calls for sustained 23 mph winds out of the southwest and west with gusts up to 38 mph. The Haines Index will max out at 6, an indication of atmospheric instability which can be conducive to rapid fire growth.  On Friday the wind should increase with 22 to 29 mph southwest winds gusting above 40 mph under cloudy skies but there will be a 33 percent chance of showers.

In an update Thursday morning the incident management team said, “It is likely the fire will continue to spread north along Highway 31, where timber is denser.”

map Trail Mountain Fire
Map of the Trail Mountain Fire at 11:36 p.m. MDT June 13, 2018.

Highway 31 is closed as firefighters work to keep the fire from crossing the road. An evacuation order is in effect.

The origin of the Trail Mountain Fire was a prescribed fire that escaped control on the Manti-La Sal National Forest northwest of Huntington, Utah on June 6.

Trail Mountain Fire
Trail Mountain Fire. Photo by Bonneville Hotshots.

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. Google+

10 thoughts on “Extreme weather expected on Trail Mountain Fire Thursday”

  1. Why would anyone deliberately ignite a fire in this area after months of drought, with several other large fires in the region drawing off resources and marginal conditions in the forecast?

    The conditions that justify prescribed burns take years to develop. Waiting for appropriate conditions, even if it takes months, seems like a simple enough alternative to starting a fire that obviously could not be controlled and has grown to a nearly 10,000 acre fire that will take millions of dollars to suppress, is putting lives in danger and impacting access to services by forcing the closure of highways.

    And yet, even with a long history of this type of failure, managers fail to realize that the results of this kind of negligent decision making is a major reason for the opposition to the use of prescribed burns and their lack of common sense is taking this tool away from them in many areas.

    1. I agree as to lack of what seems a no brainer and lack of common sense.

      Why are prescribed burns even allowed in the Spring when birds are nesting and animals have their young?

  2. I agree with Carl ,who is right on the money . These out of control Wildfires happen time after time .
    Problematic ,whether is just gross in competence, on the part of management ,or if there is some intention involved in burning up our forests ? We could only hope that some higher-up officials are looking to eradicate the use of prescribed burns . The OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL SHOULD BE LOOKING INTO THIS !

    1. Chuck,
      I agree with and support the use of prescribed burns. The positive results are many and oftentimes offer dramatic improvements in wildlife habitat, spring and stream flow, and overall forest health and fire control.

      My criticism is directed at those “managers” who discount obvious risks and start fires that “escape” when there was little hope of containing them under the existing and forecast conditions. Managers who use criteria in a manual as an excuse when conditions obviously dictate otherwise. Year after year after year, these escaped fires indicate systemic problems in the decision making process.

      This situation is exacerbated because the decision makers are protected by the agencies they work for instead of being held accountable. Those agencies don’t want the financial liability of admitting negligence.

      Initially, these were called “controlled” burns, but so many of them escaped control that to save face, the term “prescribed” replaced “controlled.” At that point, the criteria should have been drastically revised to insure the burn is not only contained but also controlled, and those who make the decision to ignite a fire should be held personally responsible for their decisions.

  3. When the beetles killed the trees, what wrong with timbering the beetle killed trees. That makes to much sense . To use that timber for a good use . Lets burn up the mountain and kill the wildlife thanks USFS.

    1. Plenty of timber sales around; have you considered the market or the cost of removing timber at this particular site?

    2. The Forest Service would also like to log much of the areas. The problem is special interest groups, attorneys and lawsuits. Special interest groups from the far left to the far right and those in between will not budge. So we all lose.

  4. I do not have personal knowledge of this particular site. But how many other sites would benefit from thinning and logging? Changing our outdated log export laws would be a good first step toward funding the endeavor. These laws put into effect over the last quarter of the twentieth century, prohibit the export of logs in their unmilled form from west of the 100th meridian which runs from western Montana down to Texas. Australia exports to the orient and we should be competing with her. Think of all the empty Walmart containers returning to China. Meanwhile we are watching our forests go up in flame, creating an inferno for our valued firefighters and shortening the lives of our downwind populations. Common sense is needed here for a change. I’ve heard our politicians give speeches about bringing back the glory of the forests from their childhood memories. Well, that is not going to happen. Many of our western forests will transition into juniper/grassland savannas. There is no amount of controlled burning or managed wildfires that will stop that. Therefore, whatever strategies that we adopt will have consequences far beyond our preferences, such as shortening the lives of our downwind populations and bankrupting medicare, OHI and generally reducing our workforce productivity due to the massive amount of smoke pollution. It is time for the FS and other land managers and various environmental groups to be publicly held accountable for their mismanagement and dysfunctional interactions with each other. Unfortunately, both groups intend to bury their mistakes in the misery dished out to public health.

  5. A. Miller is spot on ,making very good,and coherent points. It is time for the bureaucrats to start listening ! We are probably in for another severe fire season, due to misguided policies.

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