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.

Idaho inmate accused of rape at a fire in Utah

The Idaho Department of Corrections has returned their fire crews to prison while it reviews the program

Rubin Hernandez rape

An inmate working on a camp crew has been accused of raping a woman at the Coal Hollow Fire 56 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Associated Press is reporting that Ruben Hernandez, 27, has been charged with felony rape. Below is an excerpt from the article:

…The woman told police Hernandez had been flirting with her and asked for her number. She gave him a friend’s husband’s contact information to get him to leave her alone, according to charging documents filed Friday.

One morning as she was sitting in a wash trailer watching a movie, Hernandez entered, exposed himself and asked for oral sex, authorities said. He assaulted her after she again rejected him, according to charging documents.

She froze, afraid to scream or stop him because she knew he was a prisoner and didn’t want to get hurt, the charges say. She told a friend, who reported the assault to base-camp security guards.

The inmate was part of a 10-person crew from Idaho working at the incident command post in Utah, performing cooking and janitorial duties supervised by two Idaho correctional officers.

The alleged rape occurred on a day of transition at the fire, as the Northern Rockies incident management team departed and turned it over to a local Type 3 team.

After the August 29 incident the Idaho Department of Corrections brought their fire crews back to prison while it reviews the way they choose, train, and deploy inmates in the program.

The Coal Hollow Fire has burned over 31,000 acres along Highway 6 south of Spanish Fork Canyon. The lightning-caused fire started August 4 and is winding down. It has not been updated on Inciweb since September 8, 2018.

map Coal Hollow Fire Utah

Utah firefighter adopts dog found at California wildfire

Many of us had not heard of Draper City, Utah before their fire department Battalion Chief Matthew Burchett was killed by a falling tree while fighting the Mendocino Complex of Fires in Northern California August 13, 2018. That was, of course, a tragedy, but now the city and department are in the news for a different reason. One of their firefighters found and has adopted a dog they found while fighting the same fire.

Two fire engines burned on the North Eden Fire in Utah

Two fire vehicles fighting the North Eden Wildfire were destroyed August 17 by wind-driven flames. A heavy engine from Woodruff Fire Department and a light engine from the State Division of Forestry Fire & State Lands responded to the fire’s west flank.

One engine experienced a mechanical problem and as both crews tried to make the vehicle mobile again flames quickly moved toward the scene cutting off their escape route. The group of three firefighters was forced to leave the vehicles and escape into the black. No injuries were reported.

The 13,753-acre fire is burning in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming.– a rare three-state fire.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Weather slows fire activity in Western United States

Above: Accumulated precipitation over the last seven days, June 12-18, 2018. 

Moderating weather over the last seven days has helped firefighters make progress on some of the fires in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah. Today’s national Situation Report showed little or no increase in the size of wildfires in those four states. The 416 Fire in southwest Colorado and the Badger Creek Fire in southern Wyoming released a total of 345 personnel over the last 24 hours.

Todd Pechota’s Type 1 Incident Management Team is currently assigned to the 416 Fire, but Joe Reinarz’s NIMO team has been mobilized for the fire, which could be an indication that they expect it to be a long term incident. The west side of the fire has spread into steep, remote terrain above 8,000 feet as it grows closer to an 11,000 to 12,000-foot ridge five miles away. Much of the ridge is above the timber line and may eventually, with patience over time, serve as a barrier. Mr. Reinarz’s team team will transition on Friday.

Below, National Weather Service graphics show the observed precipitation and the departure from normal for the last 30 and 90 days.

precipitation 30 days
Accumulated precipitation, May 20 through June 18, 2018. NWS.
precipitation 30 days
Precipitation departure from average, May 20 through June 18, 2018. NWS.
precipitation 90 days
Accumulated precipitation March 21 through June 18, 2018. NWS.
precipitation 90 days
Precipitation departure from average, March 21 through June 18, 2018. NWS.