PAYSON CANYON, Utah (News4Utah) Crews battling the flames in Utah County may be catching a break.
Officials believe they’re finally gaining the upper hand on the Bald Mountain Fire burning one mile from Payson.
Seven miles up Payson Canyon above the Grotto Trailhead, an orange sun filtered through smokey skies. Below stands acres of what firefighters dubbed a “moonscape,” with charred trees and little else.
“The fire here was high intensity and it stayed on the ground for a long period of time,” Bald Mountain Fire Spokesperson Steve Kliest said.
The fire torched 800 more acres overnight, bringing the total to 16,554. Difficult weather conditions continued on Wednesday, including strong winds and low humidity.
“In a nutshell, it is as bad as it gets,” Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team Operation Section Chief Dan Dallas said. “We expect as bad as it gets today.”
Direct fire lines and contingency dozer lines finally surround the Bald Mountain Fire. Thanks to more than 600 firefighters, Woodland Hills and Elk Ridge communities are safer than they’ve ever been.
“If it starts moving fast or gets intense, which will probably both happen at the same time, we have the ability to go burn out the fuels ahead of it and have a control feature to do that on,” Dallas said.
Dallas said the fire has reached timber that will start slowing it down. Containment levels sit at 12 percent but expected to grow quickly now.
Fire officials said they’re cautiously optimistic fire lines will hold despite strong winds. Kliest said officials are working hard to get evacuees back in their homes.
“As soon as it can be done, it will be done,” Kliest said.
The Pole Creek fire is not fully contained and was expected to make a run to the north Wednesday afternoon.