Firefighters, archaeologists team up to protect hieroglyphs from Utah wildfire

Firefighters teamed up with archeologists to protect the Chalk Creek Hieroglyphs from a wildfire burning in Fishlake National Forest on July 12, 2022. Photo: Utah Fire Info

FILLMORE, Utah, July 17, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — Firefighters have teamed up with archeologists to protect the Chalk Creek Hieroglyphs from a wildfire burning in Fishlake National Forest.

State fire officials say winds topping 30 mph about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday pushed the Halfway Hill Fire across the containment line and over Chalk Creek Road, with “erratic fire behavior” within one mile of the Chalk Creek Hieroglyphs.

Archaeologists and fire personnel created a protection plan for the hieroglyphs shortly after the wildfire started July 8.

If the fire moved in the direction of the hieroglyphs, the plan called for crews to remove the heavy vegetation on top of the site and cover the rock etchings and interpretive signs with fire-protection fabric, U.S. Forest Service officials said in a news release.

A back burn also was planned ahead of the main fire to keep the fire intensity near the site minimal, the release states.

“Alteration to the area was not desired by the Forest Service if it could be avoided, so fire personnel waited as long as possible before taking any action,” Forest Service officials said.

Bureau of Land Management archaeologist Hannah Robinson and fire crews went to the site Tuesday evening and began to remove trees and brush immediately next to the hieroglyphs, according to the news release. Crews also wrapped the hieroglyphs and signs with the fire-protection fabric and used tools to dig fire lines around the wooden barricade in the parking area, officials said.

“Within 30 minutes, the site was in a much better position to survive the fire if winds and erratic fire behavior continued,” the release states. “Fortunately, the Halfway Hill Fire did not burn over the Chalk Creek Hieroglyphics that day.”

The protection measures remain in place in case the fire again moves in the direction of the hieroglyphs, state fire officials said.

The Chalk Creek Hieroglyphs are one of the most visited sites on the Fillmore Ranger District of Fishlake National Forest, according to the news release.

“The firefighting efforts have preserved the area as an amazing recreational location and a wonderful part of the local history,” the release states.

The hieroglyphics were discovered in 1939 by prospectors Clifford Purcell and Rube Melville, who were looking for iron ore in the area, according to the news release. The hieroglyphs consist of four lines of 24 symbols etched into the stone face above the opening to a small cave, the release states.

“Some believe the symbols point to the location of gold tablets, which has led to many attempts to locate the fabled tablets to no avail,” the release states. “Another interpretation is the inscriptions are from Spanish miners looking for gold in Chalk Creek.”

The Halfway Hill Fire is burning about three miles southeast of Fillmore. The human-caused wildfire has burned 11,733 acres and is 39% contained, state fire officials said.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here