Residents at the Skull Valley Goshute Indian Reservation are out of the woods, but people in Terra are still in the path of the raging Patch Springs Wildfire.
As of Thursday morning, the wildfire, burning primarily on the Skull Valley side of the Stansbury Mountains, had swelled to 13,000 acres. It is the second-largest of seven wildfires burning across the state.
Fickle winds and low humidity have added to the quickly spreading blaze, but crews have made some headway — the blaze is now 20 percent contained, said Joanna Wilson, a spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management.
Sparked by lightening on Saturday night, the fire had come within two miles of the Indian reservation. Though it remains close, the line hasn’t spread. There are few hot spots and the reservation is no longer considered to be in danger, said Wilson said.
Terra, however, is another matter.
She added a bulldozer had cleared a firebreak between the town and the fire, but because of sandy soil conditions, the equipment could only go so high on the mountain, leaving the possibility of the fire growing up and around the break. The fire’s crackling edges have now crept within a mile of the small town.
Wilson said no evacuations have been made — even for the about 15 residents living on the west side of the highway, closest to the fire — and SR-199 remains open through Johnson’s Pass.
She added the BLM’s incident commander and Terra Fire Department Chief Gerald Neil, surveyed the area and determined choke points on Wednesday — places that, if the fire came that far, would tell firefighters and residents it was time to clear out, or that it would no longer be safe to keep the highway open.
Those choke points are about a half mile from Terra and the highway. As of Thursday the fire was a half mile or less away from them, said Wilson. But a little luck had come — the fire had not grown towards the town at all over Wednesday night.
“It’s getting close, but that’s why we’re out there working to prevent [the spread towards Terra] from occurring,” she said.
While Terra remains the chief concern of the nearly 150 firefighters battling the flames, the fire has been growing to the north, in the direction of Big Hollow, said Wilson. The fire is still a ways out yet, but its growth in that direction has raised concern about the safety of that area.
“There are several residents in Big Hollow, and the fire is slowly making its way to Big Hollow, so we will be determining the best way to keep it from spreading there,” she said. “Big Hollow is there, it’s in our brains. We’re concerned about that. We’ll know more by [Thursday] afternoon about how to prevent the fire from going to the Big Hollow area.”
Flames continued to crest the Stansbury Mountains, most recently traveling up Antelope Canyon on Wednesday and starting to come down the other side. Fire retardant has been dropped from overhead on areas where crews cannot safely go.
The fire has also spread to Indian and Hickman Canyons, Wilson said, and firefighters are trying to determine the best way to fight the fire on the steep slopes and keep it from growing down the mountain.