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Francis Fire reportedly started several days ago

(Credit: Paul Nelson)

DAVIS COUNTY — Helicopters are still dropping water on the hot spots of the Francis Fire above Fruit Heights, and crews say they had it 20 percent contained by six p.m. Tuesday.

And one of the most interesting things to come out of press briefings on Tuesday was this: Investigators say the fire had actually been smoldering for a long time, and no one noticed it.

Crews say lightning caused the Francis Fire, but, the strike may have happened five or six days ago.  Fire Spokesperson Kim Osborn calls the phenomenon “holdover.”

“Lightning exited under the ground in some roots.  It smolders around and burns all that material, it gets really hot and comes up to the surface and those things on the surface start on fire,” she says.

She compares it to a campfire, saying, “In a campfire, you dig down, it appears to be cold on the top and all the heat is at the bottom.”  She added, “If you’re not in the fire world, it probably doesn’t make sense.  It’s more common in a big timber forest.  You see that a lot, but, along here in the front, it’s not as common.”

The evacuations around the fire have been lifted, but, Adams Canyon, Bair Canyon and the Bonneville Shoreline trail are still closed.  The weather, that had been such a problem yesterday, was actually helpful on Tuesday.

Osborn says, “As they were watching things the temperatures dropped and the relative humidity came up.  The fire petered out, a little bit.”

Air tankers are at the ready to drop more retardant around the fire, if needed.