Firefighters from several northern Utah counties are getting help from state and federal agencies as they battle dozens of wildfires that broke out across Box Elder County following a Sunday night thunderstorm.
Box Elder County Fire Marshal Corey Barton said lightning from the storm that came through late Sunday into early Monday morning started at least 26 grass and brush fires around the county. The largest was a blaze near Park Valley that had consumed about 6,000 acres as of late Monday morning.
Barton said the fires are scattered all over the sparsely populated parts of the county. No major structures or developed areas have been threatened yet, but the sheer number of fires is stretching resources to their limits.
“We’re getting just about all we can pull from Cache, Weber and Rich counties,” he said. “We’re also using state and federal resources as much as we can, and just about every local department in Box Elder County is out there.”
Box Elder County’s road department has been temporarily shut down so firefighters can use its bulldozers and other equipment, Barton said.
He said many of the blazes had been contained quickly, but crews are getting worn out as they finish up at one location and immediately have to move to another.
The wet spring has meant that cheatgrass and other fuels have grown taller and thicker than usual this year, making a major fire hazard as it dries out in the hot summer weather.
“That’s what’s really causing the problem for us,” Barton said. “The water is a blessing for our crops and reservoirs, but it’s a nightmare on the wildland firefighting end of it.”
One positive takeaway from the all the water that came earlier in the year is that the higher elevations are staying greener later into the summer, he said, so the fire danger isn’t quite as high in the mountains — at least not yet.
One of the fires that started Sunday night was burning near Golden Spike National Historic Park, but Barton said the park itself wasn’t in danger because precautions have been taken to protect the area and resources are on standby to defend it as needed.
He reminds people who are traveling and recreating in remote parts of the county to be extra careful due to the high fire danger, especially since firefighting resources are already strained.
“Our firefighters are tired,” he said.