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Hazardous conditions spur ban on open fires in Utah

Published June 14, 2012 7:31 am

Wildfires • Crews have nearly contained 2 biggest Utah blazes.
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Hazardous conditions across the state have prompted Utah authorities to ban all open fires — except at improved campgrounds, picnic areas and permanent places of habitation — beginning Thursday.

The ban encompasses all state, federal and unincorporated private lands, according to a statement issued Wednesday by Utah Interagency Fire, which includes state and federal agencies. Also banned is the discharge of any kind of fireworks, tracer ammunition or other pyrotechnic devices; and smoking is prohibited except within an enclosed vehicle, building or developed recreation site.

Meanwhile, crews fought the Hills Fire in southern Utah, which charred 56 acres, threatened three homes and damaged a wooden deck and windows. The fire started 10 miles north of St. George in the Winchester Hills area when a wheel broke off a travel trailer on State Road 18. The hot metal wheel rolled into the grass, igniting it. The fire began around 4 p.m. and was contained later in the evening.

Crews on Wednesday completed containment lines around the 2,170-acre Box Creek Fire and expected by week's end to hem in the nearly 2,100-acre Lost Lake Fire. Both fires were burning in remote stretches of south-central Utah grasslands and timber.

Fishlake National Forest spokesman John Zapell said the Box Creek Fire, a human-caused blaze sparked on June 4, was 100 percent contained as of late Wednesday morning. About 290 firefighters, with assistance from water-bearing helicopters in the air and heavy earth-moving equipment on the ground, made good progress late Tuesday and overnight in snuffing remaining hot spots that had been "creeping and smoldering" about five miles northwest of Greenwich and some 35 miles southeast of Richfield, he said.

"Firefighters . . . continue mopping [up] burned areas adjacent to the fire perimeter," Zapell said. "We plan on lifting evacuations [of area cabins] and road closures Thursday morning."

About 420 firefighters battled the Lost Lake Fire, another human-caused blaze that continued to smoke southwest of Teasdale, in Wayne County. That fire was about 85 percent contained as of Wednesday evening.

The Copper Mountain Fire was contained after burning 680 acres on Bureau of Land Management holdings east of the Pilot Mountains off Highway 30 along the Nevada-Utah border, said BLM spokeswoman Cami Lee. The cause of the fire — downsized from an estimated 1,200 acres following GPS-aided mapping — remained under investigation.

Meanwhile, crews were monitoring but not actively attacking the lightning sparked 150-plus acre Wild Horse Canyon Fire, in the San Rafael Swell region.

The Battlecreek Fire burned about five acres after igniting Tuesday evening in the mountains above Pleasant Grove but was declared 100 percent contained by 8:30 p.m. U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Loyal Clark said the blaze was "definitely human-caused," but investigators continued Wednesday to look into the precise circumstances.

A fire began Wednesday near a gravel pit southeast of Stockton at about 4 p.m. So far the blaze has taken 54 acres and was 70 percent contained Wednesday night. There were no injuries or buildings damaged. The human-caused fire is under investigation.

Cimaron Neugebauer contributed to this story.

remims@sltrib.com