TOOELE COUNTY, Utah (News4Utah) – A new fire that started Saturday west of the Great Salt Lake grew to nearly 10,000 acres Sunday night.
Officials said the fire started around 3 p.m. in the Lakeside Mountains and target shooting is believed to be the cause.
“Tooele is a very popular spot for people to come target shooting. People will come out into these foothills and drive right up to the base of the hills, set their targets, and not really think about what’s behind the target,” said Dan Walton, Tooele County Fire Warden.
The initial response to the fire was delayed due to the fire being within five miles of the U.S. Magnesium federal environmental Superfund site and crews were unable to access the area.
“We are unclear on the health hazards, so we did our best to prevent people from going into that area,” said Walton. “A couple of fire departments went in and tried to establish an anchor point, just so the fire wouldn’t get out of control. One we had lost air resources from the Bureau of Land Management, we realized our efforts were futile and we retreated.”
However, Walton said even if the fire got close enough to U.S. Magnesium, the site already had preparations in place.
“With the facility of that size and that well-funded, they know about the threats of wildfire,” said Walton. “They’ve got asphalt and natural fuel rigs so even if the fire were to come as fast as it could towards that building in this short grass and brush fuel type, there’s very little chance that that factory would become involved.”
Sunday morning the fire had grown to 3,600 acres and continued to spread throughout the day. By nightfall, the fire was at 9,900 acres and 50% contained.
Firefighters had the fire completely contained by 6 p.m. Monday. Walton said fire crews took a reactive approach to the fire, waiting for the fire to come down the hill, and burn off into the road.
Walton said investigators know who started the fire, but it will be up to the state to prove negligence before any charges can be filed.
Fire officials advise target shooters to follow these guidelines:
- Make sure there’s no grass or continuous vegetation behind your target
- Bring five gallons of water and a shovel in case of a fire
- Don’t use ammunition made of steel
- Don’t shoot exploding targets
North Tooele Fire District, Grantsville Fire Department and U.S. Bureau of Land Management personnel all responded to the fire.