Crews fight to increase containment on Pole Creek, Bald Mountain fires

September 19, 2018
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A firefighting helicopter drops water on the Pole Creek fire southeast of Woodland Hills on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. Currently no structures have been reported lost from the Pole Creek Fire or Bald Mountain Fire.

Update: 10:33 a.m.

An official said a corner has been turned with the Bald Mountain Fire, which in combination with the Pole Creek Fire has caused more than 6,000 people to be evacuated from their homes.

At a press briefing Tuesday morning, Dan Dallas, operations section chief for the Bald Mountain Fire, said that a control feature has been established around 95 percent of the fire’s perimeter. By the end of the day, it will be 100 percent around the perimeter.

The fire “sat still” long enough for crews to establish the line, Dallas said. It gives firefighters the ability to burn fuel between the line and the wildfire if winds should change the fire’s direction.

“We’re really appreciative, because that gives us a control feature that we can be further satisfied that we can protect the houses and the infrastructure,” Dallas said.

The Bald Mountain Fire is still listed at 0 percent containment, but Dallas said that will soon change as the firefighting efforts have “turned a corner.”

Now that the line is in place, crews will be able to directly attack the fire, Dallas said, concentrating on the northern border of the fire where it is threatening the communities of Woodland Hills and Elk Ridge.

The Bald Mountain Fire is currently estimated at 15,635 acres, with 671 personnel from across the country working the fire.

The Pole Creek Fire is currently estimated at 74,509 acres with 23 percent containment and 689 personnel on the fire.

Incident commander Marty Adell said despite more high winds predicted Tuesday, aircraft will continue being used to fight the fire until it becomes unsafe.

Near the Covered Bridge community, Adell said the fire has held in place for several days. With improved air quality, the fire could become more active in that area, Adell said. Air support has enabled crews to protect structures in the area, and there are currently resources there in case the fire should start moving toward residences.

A hot shot crew is being used to stop the fire’s progression in the Diamond Fork area, Adell said. Much of the containment is on the fire’s east flank.

Currently no structures have been reported lost for either fire. Only minor injuries have been sustained by firefighters.

Evacuation and pre-evacuations have not changed from what they were Monday. Birdseye, Covered Bridge, Woodland Hills, Elk Ridge and the right fork of Hobble Creek Canyon are all under mandatory evacuation orders.

U.S. Highways 6 and 89 are both still closed.

Officials hesitate to estimate how much longer residents will be evacuated. Incident commander Todd Pechota said he would rather under-promise and over-deliver than tell people they may be able to go home sooner than they actually can.

Update hourly