Pack Creek fire exceeds more than 8,000 acres

A simple unattended campfire on June 9 has grown into a massive wildfire on the northern and western flanks of the La Sal Mountains.

By June 15, the Pack Creek Fire had burned more than 8,435 acres, destroyed a number of homes, and threatened dozens more.

A small army of more than 425 fire-fighting personnel are on the scene for a fire that is still less the 16 percent contained. It is estimated that full containment of the fire may take an extended period of time.

Despite the additional resources brought by a Type 2 Incident Management team, the crews face difficult conditions as the result of record heat, strong winds, extremely dry fuels, and steep, rugged terrain. No precipitation is expected in coming days and the record heat is expected to continue.

Despite the challenges, the fire crews appear to be getting the upper hand in the long battle, with a decrease in fire growth and an increase in fire containment.

Record high temperatures are expected to continue but the winds that plagued the early response to the fire have decreased.

The fire started at an abandoned campfire at the day-use area near the Pack Creek Ranch community on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 9. By evening, the fire had grown to approximately five acres.

By the next morning, the fire had grown to approximately 50 acres and continued to grow under the high heat, strong winds, and dry conditions. By evening on Thursday, it totaled more than 500 acres.

It was overnight on Thursday that the fire experienced another massive expansion and by Friday morning, just 36 hours after the blaze started, the fire totaled more than 5,000 acres.

The initial response was by volunteers and officials from the local fire departments. The initial response crews were able to keep the fast-moving flames away from a number of homes in the Pack Creek Ranch community.

However, by the end of the sixth day, a total of four homes and five other outbuilding had been destroyed.

The residents of the Pack Creek Ranch community were evacuated from their homes in the early hours of the fire. As the fire expanded away from the community, they were able to return to their homes by Sunday, June 13.

The fire started near the boundary of the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Expansion of the blaze has primarily been to the east and north on Forest Service land.

After several days, the front edge of the expanding fire is far beyond Pack Creek and moved into a number of additional drainages.

On Sunday, June 13, the fire breached the county road near Geyser Pass and is moving into the Blue Lake and Dark Canyon drainages. This triggered an additional evacuation order for the homes and cabins in that area.

After three exhausting days, the local response teams were relieved by an incident management team on June 12. By June 15, more than 425 personnel were on the scene, attacking a fire of more than 8,400 acres.

The fire-fighting effort included 11 helicopters, 21 engines, and 11 separate firefighting crews.

A fixed-wing aircraft with infrared technology mapped the burned area a number of times.

In the days since the fire started, a number of restrictions have been implemented on state and federal land, including Stage One fire restrictions on the Manti La Sal National Forest. The restrictions include restricting fires, fireworks, target practice, smoking, cutting metal, or using equipment without a spark arrestor.

A similar action was taken for all BLM public lands in Utah.

Forest Service investigators continue to explore leads to help identify those responsible for the fire’s start. A tip line for information is 775-355-5337.

Updates about the fire are posted to utahfireinfo.gov.

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