This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Updated: 7:07 AM- KANOSH - Fire managers are facing new pressures as more blazes sprout up across the western United States, Utah's enormous Milford Flat fire continues to burn largely uncontrolled and a lightning-laden storm front is moving into the region.
"Resources are becoming sparse across the nation," said Rowdy Muir, incident commander overseeing the 329,100-acre blaze that is 30 percent contained. The Milford Flat fire stretches about 55 miles from south to north and about 40 miles east to west.
Overall, Muir said, the fire did not advance much on Tuesday, and crews hope to make progress today in halting the blaze's spread on its north and south ends before thunderstorms and afternoon winds move into the region. About 125 fresh firefighters arrived overnight to bolster efforts to bring flames to heel.
Firefighters spent much of the day bulldozing a line on the southeastern tip that they hoped would keep the fire from crossing Interstate 15 between Sulphurdale and Manderfield.
The fire jumped the freeway at Cove Fort on Saturday, burning down one building and forcing an evacuation east of I-15, but firefighters doused that outbreak with the aid of air tankers and helicopters.
Firefighters from across the nation have been streaming into the area, raising the total above 500, and were deployed at Cove Fort and the Mineral Mountains east of Milford to keep the blaze from retreating into the town. More personnel are to arrive in the days to come.
But clouds, moving faster than expected into the region, threatened to bring winds that will fan the flames forward, Muir said. ''So [today] is going to be a real interesting day."
Still, Milford Flat, though the largest in state history, is second only to the Mathis fire near Price as the nation's wildfire priority. Mathis carries the potential for igniting gases from area coal mines.
Nationally, there are 44 large fires, Muir said.
Meanwhile, forecasts suggest new thunderstorms will begin to build today. And with them comes the threat of more dry lightning, microburst winds and new fires across the West, where trees and grass are bone dry.
"We'd like to do what we can before we get another wind event," Muir said.
Julia Ruthford, a National Weather Service meteorologist posted at the fire, said moisture is moving northward into Utah from Mexico. The rain those clouds bring may not be enough to douse the fires, but they will bring enough moisture to boost humidity, which has been in the dangerously low single digits for more than a week.
"Our two problems tomorrow are going to be new [wildfire] starts from dry thunderstorms and very strong downdraft microburst winds out of the thunderstorms," Ruthford said.
Heather DeMine, a manager at a Cove Fort convenience store, became an impromptu tour guide to the fire that destroyed a gift shop and a backyard shed but left the gas station, an auto repair shop, an RV park and a home intact and caused no injuries.
"It went right over the top of us," she told a small gathering of astounded customers at the counter. "Why we didn't burn, I don't know. It's amazing."
In the Rock Corral Recreation Area east of Milford, the 20-member Lewis and Clark Hotshot crew was setting up for a back burn near Ranch Canyon, said crew boss Jake Mikovitz. The Montana-based firefighters arrived Saturday from the Neola North fire near Roosevelt and were operating on little sleep.
"Our intent is to make a pretty big black zone next to the road so the fire can't burn back to Milford," he said.
Tyler Van Orman, who arrived Monday from Marion, Ill., was directing a small crew wrapping cabins in the area with a fire retardant foil called cabin foil. They also had set up sprinklers around three houses in the Ranch Canyon to ward off the blaze if it came down through the tinder dry pine and mahogany.
"If you want my prediction, [the fire] will be down here tomorrow," he said.
Mike Martin, a member of the Type I management team setting up in Kanosh, flew in Monday from the Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota.
The grass, the brush and the trees are dryer than kiln-dried lumber, he noted as he scouted the massive burn outside Milford.
"It's dry and it wants to burn," he said. "And it's going to burn."