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.

Maps: Red Flag Warnings and wildfire smoke

Red Flag Warnings are in effect in portions of eight states

red flag warnings september 12 2018
Red Flag Warnings September 12, 2018

While residents along the east coast are evacuating as a hurricane approaches, Red Flag Warnings are in effect for enhanced wildfire danger in areas of California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Colorado.

The map below is the forecast for the distribution of wildfire smoke at 5 p.m. MDT September 12, 2018.

wildfire smoke map
The forecast for the distribution of wildfire smoke at 5 p.m. MDT September 12, 2018. NOAA.

 

Satellite photo shows smoke from wildfires

Six states have Red Flag Warnings in effect, August 26, 2018

The NASA satellite photo above taken August 25, 2018 shows heat (in red) and smoke created by the fires in parts of California, Oregon, Nevada, and Idaho. Cloud cover in Washington and Northern Oregon made it impossible to see the fires in those areas.

Six states have Red Flag Warnings (red areas) in effect for August 26, 2018.

Red Flag Warnings,
Red Flag Warnings, August 26, 2018.

On Sunday forecasters expect wildfire smoke to be transported east or northeast in most areas.

wildfire smoke map
This is the NOAA forecast for smoke created by wildfires, for 6 p.m. MDT August 26, 2018.

 

Wildfire smoke map and Red Flag Warnings

The map above is the forecast for the distribution of wildfire smoke at 6 p.m. MDT August 25, 2018. The states being the hardest hit today include California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

Below are the areas under Red Flag Warnings (red) on August 25 and Fire Weather Watches (yellow).

Red Flag Warnings Areas under Red Flag Warnings (red) on August 25 and Fire Weather Watches (yellow).

Some areas in the Northwest have “unhealthy” air quality

The primary cause is smoke from wildfires

Air Quality Index smoke
Air Quality Index, August 21, 2018. AirNow.gov

Smoke from wildfires continues to plague areas of Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, and Wyoming. According to AirNow.gov, the five cities in the United States with the worst air quality Tuesday were:

  • Cheeka Peak, Seattle-Bellevue-Kent Valley, and Bellingham in Washington;
  • Yreka, California; and
  • Shady Cove, Oregon.

The information below from the National Weather Service reinforces the advice that the least expensive dust masks available at the local hardware store (or a bandana tied over your face) provide almost no protection from smoke. The microscopic particles in smoke from vegetation fires are so small that they cruise right through a mask that may work fine for filtering out dust from working with wood, for example.  As they said, choose a mask called a “particulate respirator” that has the word “NIOSH” and either “N95” or “P100” printed on it.

map wildfire smoke
The forecast for the distribution of smoke from wildfires at 6 p.m. MDT August 21, 2018.
Red Flag Warnings, August 21, 2018
Red Flag Warnings, August 21, 2018.