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Lightning-sparked Utah wildfires keep crews scrambling

Published July 31, 2012 11:46 pm

Wilderness • No homes are at risk, but officials worry about sage grouse, burros and antelope.
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Lightning-sparked wildfires continued to creep and occasionally ignite trees into flame-spreading torches on more than 45,000 acres of Utah wilderness and federal lands Tuesday.

The largest of the blazes was the Dallas Canyon Fire, remapped as of Tuesday at 43,610 acres. About 360 firefighters, along with water-bearing helicopters, worked to hem in the blaze, which had been burning in the Cedar Mountain Wilderness Area 10 miles southwest of the east Tooele County community of Delle since being sparked by lightning last Friday.

Fire Information Officer Cami Lee said the fire was not threatening any structures, and crews were focused on keeping the flames within the unpopulated expanse of grass, brush and juniper.

However, while no homes were near the fire, officials were concerned about what they may find once the blaze is extinguished: the wilderness area is home to environmentally sensitive populations of sage grouse, wild burros and pronghorn antelope, as well as raptor nesting grounds.

"The resident wild horses have been sighted and doing well. Other wildlife species have also returned to the area," Lee said.

"It's settled down quite a bit," Lee added. "It was about 43,000 acres yesterday, so it hasn't grown much and we now have it 60 percent contained."

Lee said full containment of the Dallas Canyon Fire is expected by Friday night.

Along the Utah-Nevada border near the west Tooele County desert town of Ibapah, about 50 firefighters had the Ibapah Wildfire 95 percent contained by mid-morning Tuesday. GPS-aided remapping downsized the fire from 2,500 acres to 1,800 as of Tuesday, Lee said.

Another lightning blaze, the Slate Jack Wildfire, was declared 100 percent contained as of Tuesday after having burned 200 acres four miles northeast of Eureka, generally in an area where Tooele, Juab and Utah counties converge.





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