Heading to Moab in mid-August, we found that Spanish Fork Canyon was closed to motor vehicles from August 12th to August 15th. A massive forest fire in Coal Hollow was blazing and spreading to neighboring canyons. As of this writing, it has devoured 26,380 acres of cedar and pine forest. There are currently five active wildfires in Utah, making this the most destructive fire season in years.
Due to the millions of acres and dozens of forest fires, not only in Utah, but Nevada, Oregon, Idaho and California (the largest in California history), the air quality was terrible in Utah, and the sun appeared blood orange for much of August.
When driving home from Moab via Spanish Fork Canyon, I spotted a gathering of firefighters across the road from smoldering ashes and charred trees. I wanted to learn a little about these brave men who risk their lives to save people’s homes. In the wake of the tragic death of Draper Battalion Chief Matthew Burchett in California, these men’s spirits were subdued but they were undeterred from being in harm’s way to do their hard work.
Some of the men are full-time BLM firefighters. Some are reservists called from Idaho. They have been camping near Coal Hollow for the past two weeks alongside five helicopters and dozens of vehicles equipped with kerosene and gasoline (surprisingly they have no water on their truck).
The men try to predict the path of the fire and actually burn potential dry grasses that would spread the fires out of control. They even use bulldozers to create a secure “fireline”. The placement of the fireline is an ongoing calculation determined on a daily basis depending on wind direction, temperature and humidity. The Coal Hollow fire was caused by lightning. They were happy to report that Coal Hollow is now 47% contained.
The forecast calls for hot and dry conditions. Still no heavy rain to come, so likely these men will be away from their families for a while longer. Motorists were honking their horns in appreciation as I was gathering details. Be safe out there.