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Signs of new life unfolding a year after wildfire

July 13, 2019
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In this Monday, July 8, 2019 photo, a burned pickup truck remains beside where a mobile home once stood during a tour to examine conditions near the Wildcat Wildlife Management Area roughly a year after a wildfire in Duchesne County, Utah. The Daily Herald reports that grasses and flowers are returning to the area alongside charred trees. Other vegetation, like trees and sagebrush, are expected to take longer. (Isaac Hale/The Daily Herald via AP)

HEBER CITY, Utah (AP) — Signs of new life are appearing in part of northeastern Utah where a wildfire that torched more than 100 square miles (259 kilometers) a year ago.

Grasses and flowers are returning to the area, with blue and yellow wildflowers blooming around the trunks of trees charred by the blaze, the Daily Herald reported . Aspens with gradient burns along their trunks grew on dark, charred mountainsides speckled with patches of new green growth.

“It’s night and day difference,” said Miles Hanberg, the northeast region supervisor for the Utah Department of Natural Resources. A portion of the burn area has been re-seeded, but rest has grown back naturally, fed by seeds that survived the quick-moving blaze.

Other vegetation, such as trees and sagebrush, are expected to take longer to fully return. Sagebrush can take 10 to 15 years to regrow at higher elevations, and 30 to 40 years at lower levels, Hanberg said.

As for wildlife, most animals didn’t leave the area during the fire, and those that did quickly came back.

The blaze started July 1 about 8 miles (13 kilometers) southwest of Duchesne, and destroyed more than 70 homes as it burned for more than a month. People living in the area have also had to deal with floods last year, and worry they could return.

“It really devastated a lot of the homes that were left,” said Duchesne County Commissioner Greg Todd. There are homes that are still not occupied due to flooding, he said.

Still, he’s optimistic about the new growth he’s seen so far.

“We’ve been tickled to see what’s up there,” Todd said.

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