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WASATCH/DUCHESNE COUNTIES, Utah, July 4, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — The Dollar Ridge Fire, which started Sunday near Strawberry Reservoir, has grown to more than 35,000 acres, officials said late Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, they put the number at 40,000 acres, but have corrected that figure.
The Duchesne County Sheriff announced Wednesday evening on Facebook that the fire has crossed U.S. Highwy 40 to the north near Currant Creek Junction, and firefighters are working to put it out.
Utah Highway Patrol said US-40 is closed between milepost 60, near Currant Creek, and milepost 86, near Starvation Reservoir. The closure will be extended west to milepost 44, near Chicken Creek, as emergency personnel verify that all civilians have been evacuated from this area.
Drivers should use State Route 35 or U.S. Highway 191 as an alternative.
Officials ordered immediate evacuations Tuesday afternoon as the wildfire, which is still zero percent contained, continues to intensify.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert issued an executive order Tuesday night, declaring a State of Emergency effective for the month of July in Utah due to high fire danger.
“Immediate action will be required to suppress fires and mitigate post burn flash floods to protect public safety, property, natural resources and the environment should these dangerous conditions escalate,” the order, pictured below, said.
The Duchesne County Sheriff’s Office tweeted at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday that residents south of State Route 40, from Sam’s Wash Road to the Strawberry River Road west of Starvation Reservoir, should evacuate immediately. Evacuations were ordered Monday for Strawberry Gorge, Timber Creek, Beaver Creek, Camelot Resort, the Currant Creek Subdivision and the Pinyon Ridge Subdivision. Evacuated residents were invited to shelter at Duchesne High School at 155 W. Main St.
A total of approximately 450 homes have been evacuated and officials said severalhomes and cabins have been lost, but they are not able to say exactly how many and no dollar estimate of damages was available.
The update said a Type 2 Incident Management Team has arrived at the site, and took over management of the fire at 6 a.m. Tuesday.
“Fire crews will work to establish an anchor point on the northern edge of the fire and begin working to create a fireline between the fire and State Route 40,” an online update Tuesday said. “Additional air resources, water dropping helicopters and single engine air tankers will be coming into the area Tuesday afternoon and begin making strategic drops to slow the fire’s spread to allow ground crews to get in close and begin containment.”
Governor Herbert visited the Incident Command Post on Tuesday for a briefing and aerial tour of the fire, and he met with evacuees.
“Driving conditions on State Route 40 are congested with limited visibility in areas so the public is urged to slow down, drive with their headlights on and watch out for fire crews and others on the sides of the road,” the update continues. “Please keep driving safely and do not stop or pull over to watch the fire or add to the already dangerous and crowded road conditions.”
The U.S. Forest Service Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest also wants the public to be aware that some roads are closed for public and firefighter safety while crews battle the Dollar Ridge Fire.
The following roads are closed:
- Reservation Ridge road (Forest Service road #147) is closed from the Forest boundary on the Spanish Fork Ranger District north to Willow Creek road (Forest Service road #754), then going south and west along the Willow Creek road to the intersection with the Left Fork White River road (Forest Service road #131).
- The Right Fork White River road (Forest Service road #081) is closed from the Forest boundary northeast to the Reservation Ridge road (Forest Service road #147)
- Forest Service road #118 is closed at the intersection with Forest Service road #375,
The Forest Service is also reminding the public that all fireworks and any other pyrotechnic devices are prohibited on all National Forest lands, not only during the summer months, but all year long.
In a Facebook post Tuesday night, the Forest Service said, “According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year and result in an average of $43 million in direct property damage.
“A random spark can quickly escalate into a wildfire, especially under dry, windy conditions.”
They advise everyone visiting the forest lands:
- Be especially careful when towing trailers or boats, as dragging safety chains can cause sparks and ignite roadside vegetation.
- Use provided metal campfire rings in developed sites.
- Don’t leave campfires unattended, and make sure they are dead out when you leave.
- All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and motorcycles, should have properly installed and maintained spark-arresters.
- Exploding targets and tracer or incendiary bullets are prohibited on National Forest lands.
The Dollar Ridge Fire started 4.5 miles southeast of Strawberry Reservoir at about 1 p.m. Sunday. Initially reported as 20 acres burning in timber on private property, by 3:30 p.m. the fire had overtaken an estimated 1,500 acres.
The cause is believed to be due to human activity and is under investigation.
Gephardt Daily will update this story as more information becomes available.
For the latest updates on the Dollar Ridge Fire and other Utah wildfires click here.