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Crews “turn the corner” on wildfires, but danger still high

UTAH COUNTY — Fire crews are breathing a “sigh of relief” after major strides have been made in knocking back the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain fires in southern Utah County.  However, there are still a lot of things that could get in their way.

So far, the two fires have destroyed 90,000 acres, combined.

Earlier Tuesday morning, officials estimated that the Bald Mountain Fire was at zero percent containment, but, that number is expected to spike up, quickly.

“We have managed to put in, with the good work of the folks on the ground and in the air, is what we call a ‘control feature,’ basically around the whole fire,” according to Fire Operations Section Chief Dan Dallas.  He adds, “It’s a mixture of bulldozer lines and rough and steep terrain.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean the blaze will be 100 percent contained.  It just means they will have the ability to reach the flames, no matter where they spread.

(Qiling Wang, Deseret News)

That gives fire crews a leg up, even if the weather becomes erratic.

Dallas says, “What that gives us is an ability to burn out the fuels between that and the oncoming flame front.”

Now, they can bring more boots on the ground to directly knock down the flames.

“Most of it is a concentration on the north end to stop the advance on the fire.  That’s where Woodland Hills, Elk Ridge and all the things and houses are out front,” Dallas says.

Crews also feel they’ve turned a corner on the Pole Creek Fire.  By early Tuesday, it had blackened more than 75 thousand acres, but it was 23 percent contained, which is a major jump from the day before.  Incident Commander Marty Adell says that’s mostly due to the large number of aircraft making drops on and around the flames.

“We had dropped, just from fixed-wing aircraft, over 100 thousand gallons of retardant and water,” Adell says, adding, “We have the same line-up for all of our fixed-wing and helicopters, except for the ‘super scoopers’ because they were pulled away for a fire up north.”

The super scoopers were expected to return Tuesday afternoon.

However, the wildcard in this fight is still the weather.  “It’s going to be basically hot, dry and windy.  So, we are not, by any means, out of the woods, yet,” Adell says.