Wildfires close in on Utah communities south of Provo

The fires are threatening communities, including Woodland Hills and Elk Ridge

(UPDATED at 11:51 a.m. MDT September 16, 2018)

Map Pole Creek and Bald Mountain Fires
Map of the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain Fires with data from 12:16 a.m. MDT September 16, 2018. By the Incident Management Team.

The Incident Management Team reports that as of 12:16 a.m. Sunday the Pole Creek Fire had burned 61,248 acres and the Bald Mountain Fire, 13,509 acres.

Map Pole Creek Bald Canyon Fires
3-D map of the Pole Creek and Bald Canyon Fires, looking south. Data from 12:13 a.m. MDT Sept. 16, 2018. Wildfire Today, Google, USFS. Click to enlarge.

(Originally published at 9:12 a.m. MDT September 15, 2018)

Smoke Pole Creek Bald Mountain Fires
Smoke from the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain Fires illuminated by flames. Posted on Twitter by Jennifer Stone (@stonejutah) with the hash tag #paysontemple

Fifteen miles south of Provo, Utah the Bald Mountain and Pole Creek fires had come within half a mile of merging when the fires were mapped at 2:36 a.m. Saturday. That city is not threatened but residents of Elk Ridge and Woodland Hills who have not evacuated yet are looking at flames on the steep slopes uncomfortably close to their homes.

Bald Mountain and Pole Creek Fires map
3-D map, looking south showing the Bald Mountain and Pole Creek Fires. The red lines were the perimeters at 10:45 p.m. MDT Sept. 14. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:36 a.m. Sept. 15. The red shaded areas had intense heat Friday night. Click to enlarge.

The fires were started by lightning on the Unita National Forest — Pole Creek on September 6 and Bald Mountain on August 24. Initially Forest Service personnel allowed them to burn with the intention of suppressing only the portions that may threaten property, private land, important natural resources, or lives. They wanted to herd them around, while re-introducing a natural process, fire, into the environment.

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain Fires, including the most current, click HERE.

Now they have both spread outside the land managed by the Forest Service and are burning private private property. No structures have been reported burned, but the estimated costs of suppressing the fires to date is almost $2 million. That number will keep rising as more firefighting resources flood in to augment the 433 personnel already on scene.

The reported sizes of the fires have been rather confusing at times, but according to a mapping flight at 10:45 Friday night the Pole Creek Fire was 48,497 acres and the Bald Mountain Fire had burned 11,090, for a combined total of 59,587 acres. A satellite overflight at 2:36 a.m. Saturday showed additional growth on the west and north sides that occurred in the four hours between the flights.

map Bald Mountain, Pole Creek, and Coal Hollow Fires
Map showing the Bald Mountain, Pole Creek, and Coal Hollow Fires. The red lines were the perimeters at 10:45 p.m. MDT Sept. 14. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:36 a.m. Sept. 15. The red shaded areas had intense heat Friday night. The Coal Hollow Fire has been quiet for several days. Click to enlarge.

With a Red Flag Warning in effect through Sunday, rapid fire growth to the north and east is expected to continue, with strong winds, and on Saturday, single-digit relative humidity.

Red Flag Warnings
Red Flag Warnings in effect September 15, 2018.

Pole Creek and Bald Mountain Fires grow rapidly south of Provo, Utah

Above: Satellite photo taken at 6:12 MDT September 14, 2018, showing wildfires in Utah and Colorado 

(UPDATED at 7:32 p.m. MDT September 14, 2018)

The Pole Creek and Bald Mountain Fires continued to grow South of Provo Friday in Utah, but since the wind was not as strong they did not increase as much as in recent days.

The many different numbers we’re hearing for the sizes of the fires are confusing. Some of them conflate the two fires, Pole Creek and Bald Mountain, and some do not. Even when they are separated out, we are not convinced they are accurate. Having said that, Suzanne Tenhagen, a spokesperson for the Pole Creek Incident Management Team, told us at 7:05 p.m. Friday that the Pole Creek fire had burned 54,000 acres and the Bald Mountain, 14,500 acres.

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain Fires, including the most current, click HERE.

The red dots on the map below represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:18 p.m. Sept. 14.

map coal hollow fire bald mountain pole creek utah wildfires
Map showing the Bald Mountain, Pole Creek, and Coal Hollow Fires. The red lines on the Bald Mountain and Pole Creek Fires were the perimeters at 11:30 p.m. MDT Sept. 13, 2018. The white line was the approximate additional growth that was missed during the 11:30 p.m. mapping. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:18 p.m. Sept. 14. The Coal Hollow Fire has been relatively quiet for several days.

(Originally published at 9:55 a.m. MDT September 14, 2018)

Hot, dry, windy weather has caused two fires 15 miles south of Provo, Utah to increase in size dramatically over the last several days. The Pole Creek and Bald Mountain Fires initially started between Interstate 15 and Highway 89. On Thursday, pushed by a 12 mph southwest wind gusting to 25 mph with 6 percent relative humidity, the Pole Creek Fire reached Highway 89. It didn’t stop there, and kept going for another nine miles and may have reached the western edge of the 31,000-acre Coal Hollow Fire just south of Highway 6. The Coal Hollow Fire is nearly wrapped up and has been relatively quiet for several days.

The aircraft that mapped the Coal Hollow Fire at 11:30 p.m. MDT Wednesday came up with a size of 31,899 acres. However, a large portion of the fire east of Highway 89 was not mapped. Our very unofficial, rough estimate of the unmapped area is that it covers approximately 7,000 acres, based on heat detected by a satellite at 2:53 a.m. MDT September 14. This would bring the total to more than 38,000 acres. The fire is 17 miles long, measured southwest to northeast.

The Bald Mountain Fire, west of Pole Creek, did not grow as much on Thursday. It was mapped Wednesday night at approximately 6,600 acres. Both fires were very active during the satellite overflight at 2:53 a.m.

Utah and several other states have been under Red Flag Warnings for days, and that should continue through Saturday. Friday’s forecast for the fire area calls for a high of 89, relative humidity extremely low at 6 percent, and 15 to 18 mph southwest winds gusting to 25. These conditions will be conducive to continued spread to the northeast, with the possibility of reaching or even crossing Highway 6.

Red Flag Warnings
Red Flag Warnings (red) and Fire Weather Watches (yellow) for September 14, 2018. NOAA

Fire activity picks up in Utah and Colorado

At least five large wildfires are growing in the two states

Above: Satellite photo at 5:37 p.m. MDT Sept. 13, 2018 showing smoke from wildfires in Utah and Colorado.

(Originally published at 7:16 p.m. MDT September 13, 2108)

The Red Flag Warning that brought strong winds and very low humidities Wednesday and Thursday contributed to the rapid growth of several wildfires in Utah and Colorado.

In Utah two fires about 18 miles south of Provo spread very rapidly Wednesday night and Thursday. The Pole Creek and Bald Mountain Fires, between Highways 54 and 89, are only about five miles apart. Two Type 1 Incident Management Teams are en route to these fires.  Todd Pechota’s team will manage the Bald Mountain Fire and Beth Lund’s team will take the Pole Creek Fire.

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain Fires, including the most current, click HERE.

Map Pole Creek Bald Mountain Fires
Map of the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain Fires showing heat detected by a satellite as late as 2:36 p.m. MDT September 13, 2018.

At 2:36 p.m. MDT a satellite detected heat on the Pole fire indicating that it had spread over a relatively narrow path 14 miles long and had crossed Highway 89. This information from a satellite 200 miles overhead is preliminary and needs to be confirmed by someone closer to the ground.

The Bald Mountain Fire appeared to have spread about five miles. Both fires were pushed by strong southwest winds, causing them to grow to the northeast.

Our extremely rough very unofficial estimate of the size of the two fires in Utah, based on the 2:36 p.m. MDT satellite data on Friday — at that time the Bald Mountain Fire had burned approximately 2,000 acres and the Pole Creek Fire had grown to about 14,000 acres.

Two fires along Highway 318 in northwest Colorado 10 and 24 miles northwest of Maybell were quite active Thursday. They are named the Three Wash and Boone Gulch Fires.

The Silver Creek Fire 16 miles northwest of Kremmling, Colorado continued to spread toward Highway 40. Thursday afternoon it was about three miles west of the highway.