Fire crews, aided by substantial rains, continue to successfully control a wildfire that has burned about 370 acres near Buckeye Reservoir in southeastern Utah, U.S. Forest Service officials said this week. An Aug. 4 lightning strike ignited trees in a large stand of ponderosa pine, causing the fire in the Sally’s Hollow area about five miles north of the reservoir, Moab-Monticello District Ranger Mike Diem said in an Aug. 10 news release.
Since then, firefighters worked to manage the wildfire, establishing a perimeter and containing the blaze within the Sally’s Hollow area, Diem said.
But the rains have also slowed efforts to fully contain the blaze, making it difficult for firefighters to completely secure the perimeter, Diem said.
“We’re still trying to secure some areas of the [containment] line,” he said. “We’ve been patrolling it and we’ve got quite a bit of it contained or at least controlled. I suspect if we get a couple of days when it dries out a bit we’ll get it fully contained.”
As of Saturday, Aug. 20, most firefighters had been sent home and the Forest Service’s Abajo Wildfire Module and several local fire engines continue to monitor the area and check on the heavier fuels still burning in the interior of the fire, said Karen Feary, director of the Moab Interagency Fire Agency.
“We’ve had very little activity [in recent days]. Pretty much everything is on hold,” Feary said Wednesday morning. “We’re continuing to monitor it for hot spots, checking on a daily basis.”
Occasional smoke may still be visible from Gateway and Paradox, Colo., and on the east side of the La Sal Mountains, “depending on weather conditions and fire behavior,” said Heather McLean, fire prevention technician for the Moab Ranger District of the Manti-La Sal National Forest.
Soon after the blaze began, Forest Service officials said fire crews would carefully manage the fire as a way to reduce built up fuels on the forest floor and to improve the ponderosa pine stands in the area. Previous fuel reduction activities had been limited in the Sally’s Hollow area, Diem said.
“Because ponderosa pine is a fire tolerant species, low-intensity fire can benefit the health of the ecosystem and may prevent catastrophic, stand-replacing crown fires, Diem said on Aug. 10. “The Sally’s Hollow Fire is a very low intensity fire and is doing exactly what we want it to.”
In an Aug. 20 news release, McLean said the low-intensity nature of the fire meant few tree tops were damaged and excess brush on the forest floor was effectively eliminated.
“Forest Service fire managers are very positive about the good natural effects of this low-intensity fire,” McLean said in the news release. “Very few tree crowns were scorched, and ground fuels were cleaned up nicely, as intended.”
ByBy Lisa Church