Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

June 5, 2014
‘Unusual’ grass fires cause I-80 closure

A series of grass fires shut down Interstate 80 to eastbound traffic again Wednesday night.

Ryan Willden, public information officer for the North Tooele County Fire District, said firefighters responded to fight eight small fires spread out over a quarter to a half mile along I-80 near the Tooele-Salt Lake county line.

No cause has been determined, he said, but the fires are odd for a few reasons. For one thing, he said, this is the second time this has happened this week.

“It’s the second series of grass fires that we’ve had along I-80 in a week’s time, so it’s a little unusual,” said Willden. “There’s nothing specific for us to call it suspicious at this point, but it is something we’re keeping an eye on because it is unusual.”

While the location of the fires was near train tracks, and sparks from passing trains can cause fires, Willden said the fires were too far away for that to be likely. Another possible cause would be if a passing car had a flat tire and the friction of the rim on the asphalt generated sparks, he said; however, that too, is improbable.

“The thing that would kind of make that scenario a little more unlikely was that the fuel is green,” he added. “Typically we see things like that in late summer when the fuels have dried out and are really brown, whereas the fuels along I-80 are still green from all the spring rain.”

Willden said while firefighters have not been able to determine a likely cause, they also have not found anything that would indicate a suspicious cause or arson.

Eastbound I-80 was closed for about an hour while crews battled the fires, backing traffic up past exit 99 on I-80 and on state Route 36.

Regardless of the cause, Willden said the fires should be a reminder that flames can grow in any conditions.

“Even through things may look green, both down in the valley and up in the mountains, conditions are always ripe for a fire and fires can get out of control quickly,” he said. 

Lisa Christensen

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Lisa covers primarily crime and courts, military affairs, Stansbury Park government and transportation issues. She is a graduate of Utah State University, where she double-majored in journalism and music, and Grantsville High School.

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