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More firefighters on the way as the Silver King fire in southern Utah continues to burn out of control
More firefighters on the way as the Silver King fire in southern Utah continues to burn out of control

More than two days after the Silver King fire in southern Utah was sparked by a lightning strike, it is still raging out of control, more than doubling in size in the last 24 hours.

The fire in the mountains several miles west of Marysvale in Piute County has grown from 5,400 acres on Sunday to nearly 11,000 acres this morning and is zero percent contained, according to state and local fire officials. That’s an increase from about 60 acres on Friday afternoon, when the fire started in the Beaver Creek Drainage area of ​​the Fishlake National Forest.

“This fire is a monster,” said Marysvale Fire Chief Jon Christensen. “It’s raging in terrible terrain and in steep ravines that go steeply up and down hills. We can only fight it with small arms and aircraft.”

Hand crews are firefighting teams of over 18 men each who are deployed on the front lines of active forest fires.

On Sunday, firefighting planes and helicopters dropped water and fire retardant from the air while hundreds of federal firefighters, including five hotshot teams, worked to contain the fire on the ground, according to the City of Marysvale’s Facebook page.

“We have everything from local volunteer fire departments doing building protection work to 20-person hotshots teams on site fighting the fire directly,” said Kevin Abel, spokesman for Great Basin Incident Management Team 2, which took over management of the fire this morning.

Great Basin Team 2 is one of 16 crisis management teams spread across the country that respond to natural disasters and national emergencies.

So far, Abel said, about 350 firefighters from federal, state and local agencies are working to fight the fire. In addition, three large helicopters, a smaller command and control helicopter and an airplane – all contracted or used by the state – are working to fight the fire from the air.

Despite the forces deployed to fight the fire, Abel added, the rugged terrain and remoteness of the area made it difficult to gain control of the fire. Since there are no roads in the area, firefighters often have to approach the fire on foot. Strong winds, which at one point temporarily grounded fixed-wing aircraft, also played a role.

Abel said more help is on the way as more firefighters and additional resources are being sent to the area to intensify firefighting efforts. As the fire neared 300 homes on Sunday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also approved the state’s request for federal funds to cover firefighting costs.

Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune

The federal grant provides funds to cover 75% of the state’s eligible firefighting costs, but it does not provide assistance to individual home or business owners, nor does it cover fire damage to infrastructure, according to FEMA.

Firefighters’ focus today will be on the northwest side of the fire, where they will scout and build fire breaks to prevent the fire from spreading. In addition, fire crews will reinforce the fire break from Beaver Creek to Deer Creek and continue to protect structures in Bullion County, according to the U.S. Forest Service-Fishlake National Forest website.

According to the Forest Service, warmer than normal temperatures and wind gusts of up to 25 miles per hour are expected, making for another day of extreme fire weather and difficult conditions for firefighting. Residents of upper Bullion Canyon, west of Marysvale, were evacuated yesterday. In addition, power is out in some parts of the canyon.

Christensen said about 20 homeowners in the Marysvale area have voluntarily chosen to evacuate until the threat subsides. There have been no deaths, injuries or damage to homes or other buildings, he noted, but the threat is far from over. He said his volunteer firefighters are working around the clock to set up roadblocks, put out hot spots and protect buildings.

“All hands on deck,” he said. “My boys have been working for three days without sleep. We are a town of about 400 people and this is a big event.”

Firefighters are asking motorists to avoid Marysvale until the fire is under control.

By Isla