Photo Credit: Jess Roberts
Town of grouse creek saved, for now
July 30, 2018 • Nelson Phillips • Staff Writer
Two wildfires that began in Nevada have both joined in Utah, burning over 118,000 acres as of Monday afternoon, destroying tens of thousands of acres of range land that cattle ranchers in Box Elder County depend on to feed their herds.
The Goose Creek Fire began southwest of Jackpot Nevada on Thursday, July 26, the result of a lightning strike. Another Nevada fire, the China Jim Fire, also began by lightning strike on Saturday, July 28, beginning on the northern slope of China Jim Mountain, which is about 13 miles southwest of the unincorporated town of Grouse Creek, Utah.
Box Elder County firefighters were already out battling several blazes, including a 1,241 acre fire in the Raft River Mountains, a 745 acre fire at Monument Peak, an 80 acre fire in the Bovine Mountains, and also mopping up a 1,008 acre fire in Hansel Valley, when the fires crossed the border into the county on Saturday.
‘There were a lot of fires going on, and a lot of resources that were tied up,” said Box Elder County Fire Marshal Corey Barton. “And once we were able to get resources cleared, it took a while for them to get here. But we were able to get five dozers, three road graders, and a ton of Box Elder resources.” Those resources came from Box Elder County and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as well as Utah State Lands.
“People need to understand that when we order an engine from Willard, it takes three, three and a half hours to get them out here, because the location is so remote,” he said.
Barton reported that the fires initially crossed into rough terrain that was impossible to get to except by air. By Saturday evening, however, the China Jim Fire had burned through to State Route 30, forcing the road to be closed from nine miles east of the Nevada border, due to heat and visibility issues. The road was re-opened on Sunday morning.
By Sunday both fires had converged into one massive fire burning along the Utah/Nevada border, estimated at that time to be 100,000 acres. The names of the two fires were joined as the Goose Creek Fire. Engines from Garland Fire, Willard Fire and Grouse Creek Fire were deployed to protect structures, and brush trucks from Tremonton Fire, Garland Fire, Honeyville Fire, Box Elder County Fire, as well as Davis, Weber and Cache County were actively fighting the fire, as well as a multi-engine and several single engine air tankers.
When the town of Grouse Creek was threatened, the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Department ordered a voluntary, then a mandatory evacuation. As firefighters battled to save Grouse Creek and were able to establish lines around the town, the mandatory evacuation order was lifted.
“The air tankers were dropping right in people’s backyards,” said Barton, about the effort to save the town. “They were literally dropping flame retardant on the back of the houses, trying to protect them from the fire.”
Barton stated that the biggest losses to area residents so far hasn’t been structures, even though three uninhabited structures have been lost. He said the greatest losses to the local ranchers have been in burned grazing land.
“They raise cattle, this is cattle business out here. When we’re burning up all this range land, we’re burning up their summer feed, along with some pretty prime Sage Grouse habitat.,” he said.
The BLM has taken control of fighting the fire, bringing on a level one incident team, which is the highest priority designation. According to the BLM’s incident website, approximately 306 firefighting personnel were actively fighting the Goose Creek Fire as of Sunday night. The fire was listed as 15 percent contained, having burned 118,000 acres, with an expected full containment date of Wednesday, August 8.
Box Elder News Journal
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