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Probe begun to investigate handling of two Utah County wildland fires

Pole Creek Fire is one the latest examples of the wildland fires in Utah County,

SALT LAKE CITY — Members of the of the Utah Legislature’s Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee learned Wednesday that a probe was underway to investigate whether leaders of a national forest mismanaged two wildland fires in Utah County that burned 120,000 acres.

The supervisor of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Dave Whittekiend, said didn’t expect such huge blazes and that there is room for improvement, “If there’s something we can change so that it doesn’t happen again, we feel that we are ethically and morally compelled to do that.”

He told the panel he has launched a “facilitated learning analysis” into the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain Fires.

“The vast majority of time we have very good people making the best decisions, with the information they’re presented with, at the time they are there,” Whittekiend said.

A lightning strike in August started the Pole Creek fire that stayed at just 20 acres for weeks, until strong winds fanned the flames in September, forcing thousands of evacuations.

Ranchers say they are still searching for their flocks that fled the flames.