Jul 11, 2022 - News

Utah's persistent wind is making wildfire season worse

The Jacob City Fire had burned about 4,000 acres as of Sunday. Photo courtesy of Utahfireinfo.gov.
The Jacob City Fire had burned about 4,000 acres as of Sunday. Photo courtesy of Utahfireinfo.gov.

This weekend was a great example of the havoc our cycle of drought and wind can wreak on communities across the state.

What's happening: A wildfire that started Saturday in Tooele County was fanned into a 4,100-acre inferno by strong, "erratic" winds while record-high temperatures scorched northern Utah.

  • Ash from the fire blew over the Oquirrh Mountains into Salt Lake County, prompting police to ask residents to stop calling 911 to report ashes falling from the sky.

Why it matters: The Jacob City Fire was threatening buildings and forcing evacuations near Stockton, about 30 miles southwest of downtown Salt Lake City as of Sunday, fire teams reported.

  • Another fire, the Halfway Hill Fire, had burned nearly 8,000 acres in Millard County as of Sunday; a nearby subdivision had been evacuated, firefighters said.
  • Smoke from the fire caused Salt Lake's air to become dangerously polluted Saturday night, with particulate matter reaching "unhealthy" levels, according to state air monitors.

Context: Utah has had record-high average wind gusts for months — and recently the trend appears to be linked to drought, we reported Friday.

  • Crews at both fires cited strong and unpredictable wind as a problem.
  • The wind also grounded planes that were needed to fight the fires.

What's next: Forecasters expect to see more thunderstorms this week that produce high winds and possibly lightning — but over areas that are probably too dry for rain to reach the ground.

  • While the Tooele County fire was less active after Saturday's heat and wind, it was "picking up" Sunday afternoon as temperatures rose, crews reported.

The latest: Four people were arrested Saturday in connection with the Millard County Fire, FOX 13 reported.

  • Investigators say the fire started at their campsite, and they didn't report it after they were unable to put it out.
  • Meanwhile: The fire in Tooele County was caused by a generator explosion, fire officials confirmed.
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