Two firefighters die, more injured in crash on way to Utah, as local crews continue to battle blazes

The Box Canyon fire, which started July 28, 2016, burned 4,000 acres by Aug. 28. Photo Courtesy: Forest Service Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah, Aug. 28, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — Two Michigan firefighters who were heading to Utah died Saturday afternoon when their truck left Interstate 35W near Blaine, Minn.

According to KARE-TV11 in Minneapolis, the deceased firefighters were identified by Minnesota State Patrol as Alan Swartz, 25, and James Shelifoe, 23, both of Baraga, Mich. They were killed when the transport truck they were in went off the road, hit a cable barrier and rolled several times.

A total of nine firefighters were in the truck, which was traveling to Utah to help fight the Box Canyon Fire. The others in the truck were injured, some severely, according to reports, but all are expected to recover.

As of 4 p.m. Sunday, the U.S. Forest Service for Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest was reporting that the Box Canyon fire had burned 4,000 acres, and firefighters continued to work along the northwest and east perimeters of the fire, where a storm cell from the south several days ago sent high winds through the area. Sunday’s calmer weather allowed the ground crew to continue securing a line along the northern perimeter, while three helicopters continue water drops.

The Box Canyon fire, which started July 28 and has been determined to be human caused, currently has an estimated containment date of Oct. 31, according to the Forest Service InciWeb incident information website.

The Smith-Morehouse Reservoir is closed to all watercraft until further notice because it is being used as a water source for the helicopters, according to the Forest Service Facebook page.

Officials are urging people with respiratory problems to take necessary precautions. Go to for air quality information related to smoke from the fire.

At 6 p.m. Sunday, the Forest Service announced that engine crews were responding to the 15-acre Willow Creek Fire approximately 8 miles south of Strawberry Reservoir in the Willow Creek drainage. Water that was dropped on the fire Saturday helped to quiet the fire. Crews are monitoring the area.

The Davenport Fire, which started Friday afternoon in the northeast portion of the Stansbury Mountains, had burned 360 acres by Sunday night. Four engines from the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and State of Utah provided the initial response. According to the Forest Service, the fire is not threatening any structures. The Davenport trailhead is closed because of the fire activity.

Officials want everyone to know that drones and aircraft must be kept away from these areas as they interfere with helicopters making water drops and other firefighting efforts.

For information about fires, trail closures or public access to recreation in Uinta-Wasatch-Cache areas affected by fires, visit or call 801/999-2112.



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