Arson investigation continues as Tervels Fire nearly extinguished
As crews began to wrap up suppression efforts on the Tervels Fire in Summit County, officials are investigating whether it and other blazes sparked along Interstate 80 in Utah and Wyoming over Labor Day weekend are connected, according to Leann Fox, communication and prevention coordinator for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
The Tervels Fire, located near mile post 170 in Echo Canyon, east of Echo Reservoir and about six miles northeast of Coalville, started around 2 p.m. Monday. It had burned 536 acres of land as of Friday and was considered 95 percent contained. Officials hoped to have the fire completely contained by the end of Friday.
Investigators believe the cause of the fire to be arson and have reason to think the perpetrator was also behind the other fires.
“It’s an ongoing investigation,” Fox said. “Investigators won’t release what specific evidence they find. But, whatever it was they found, whether it was a gas can or matches or whatever, there was significant evidence to make them think they were connected. It was the same story for each start.”
Eleven fires in total were reported between Tooele County and Sweet Water County, Wyoming. Fox said they started in Tooele County and continued east, with six blazes in Utah and eight in Wyoming. The Tervels Fire was the only one that charred a significant amount of land. The others were quickly extinguished.
Only Summit County Fire Warden Bryce Boyer, along with three engines and one crew, remained on site Friday monitoring the wildfire. Most of the 117 fire personnel who had been battling the blaze were released on Thursday.
A pre-evacuation order that was issued for the Echo Creek Ranches area, located four miles east of the fire, during the first three days of the blaze was lifted on Thursday, as was the closure of one lane of eastbound traffic on I-80.
“Our firefighters did a tremendous job in keeping the fire contained,” said Krachel Murdock, a spokeswoman for Summit County. “We are very grateful for all of their help and support. There has been an outpouring of thanks from community members. We have seen that on social media and heard it out and about.”
Anyone with information about the start of the Tervels Fire is asked to contact the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.
Two other wildfires also continued to burn on Friday northeast of Kamas in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
The Murdock and Slate fires are burning in mixed-conifer and aspen, according to a press release from the U.S. Forest Service. The Slate Fire is located six miles northeast of Kamas. The fire, which was caused by lightning, was first reported on Aug. 23. It has burned about 30 acres.
The Murdock Fire, located 22 miles northeast of Kamas, is burning between Murdock Basin and Squaw Creek roads. It was about 80 percent contained on Friday, with about 600 acres burned.
The release states that firefighters are using confine and suppression techniques to allow the fires to burn through dead and downed vegetation.
Crews continued to use aerial and hand ignition firing to reduce the duration of the fire and minimize the risk to firefighters and the public, the release states. Approximately 70 firefighters remained on scene on Friday.
Smoke from both fires was visible from Mirror Lake Highway.
A temporary closure has been implemented beginning at Murdock Basin Road. The area remains closed to the public.
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