Weather hampers firefighting efforts


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – High temperatures and low humidity prevented firefighters from extinguishing a fire Saturday that threatened at least two dozen homes in a small town in central Utah.

Fire crews were waiting for more firefighters to arrive so they could work to put out the fire rather than just protect cabins, homes and trailers threatened by the 22-square-mile fire about 10 miles west of the town of Indianola.

Temperatures reached nearly 100 degrees, while humidity hovered around 10 percent in many of the areas where the state’s 10 wildfires were burning.

The blaze began Thursday in a private campground in Salt Creek Canyon, 85 miles south of Salt Lake City. A motel and some vehicles and trailers were burned, the U.S. Forest Service said. The fire had forced several evacuations and rescues along a 32-mile scenic road in the Uinta National Forest since Thursday.

The cause was still being investigated Saturday, but initial reports suggested a motorist may have sparked the fire by riding on the rim of a flat tire on a highway that is an access route to the forest.

Gov. Jon Huntsman toured burned areas and said he would provide National Guard troops to help if fire officials requested them. “The ravages of mother nature are clearly on display,” Huntsman said at a news conference. “I don’t know that there’s been a time in recent history that our resources have been stretched this thin.”

People on about 10 ranches in northwestern Utah evacuated Saturday as a fire grew to about 11 square miles.

A fast-moving, 281-square-mile fire near Jarbidge, Nev., and Murphy Hot Springs, Idaho, forced the evacuation of the tiny towns about 15 miles apart. That fire was 15 percent contained Saturday.

The nation’s firefighting preparedness has moved to its highest level this week, and officials worry that the worst is to come with forecasts of more lightning and extremely dry conditions.

Three of the country’s top fire teams are assigned to Nevada. A federal area command unit also has been called in to the state to coordinate fire teams. It’s the only state with such a team currently in place, officials said.

Almost half the 72 large fires burning nationally are in Nevada and Idaho.