Firefighters hope to have Birch Canyon fire extinguished in the coming days

Aerial photo of the Birch Canyon Fire, east of Smithfield (Courtesy: U.S. Forest Service)

Crews are hoping to have a small forest fire east of Smithfield completely extinguished by the end of the weekend. The Birch Canyon Fire is burning in the Mount Naomi Wilderness, four miles up Birch Canyon.

Map showing where Birch Canyon Fire is buring, east of Smithfield (Courtesy: U.S. Forest Service)

Toby Weed, with the U.S. Forest Service, said the local Weber Basin Type 2 Initial Attack hand crew (from the Weber Basin Job Corps) and other Forest Service fire fighters have been successful, burning nearby fuels. The “burnout operations” have been able to keep the fire to about five-and-a-half acres in size.

Now, the fire is just smoldering, putting out a little smoke but it is not torching anymore because all the fuel is gone. It is pretty much consumed,” said Weed. “It will still put out smoke for a few more days but the chances of it spreading have been greatly diminished by the suppression efforts of the fire fighters.”

The fire is burning on the south side of the canyon, below Mt. Jardine, at about 7,500 ft. in elevation. It was being fueled by dead timber, pine needles and leaves, but is not threatening any structures.

Weed said the blaze was reported Monday by residents who saw smoke coming from the mouth of the canyon. Firefighters believe the fire was human caused, from an unattended campfire.

“Firefighters, when they first got on the scene for the initial attack, found a fire ring that was right in the black part of the fire. It was fairly obvious, that was the cause of the fire.”

Weed explained that because the fire is burning in a designated wilderness area, firefighters can’t use machines or air-support. Instead, they are using Minimum Impact Suppression Tactics (MIST) which are approved for wilderness fires.

“We have to obey the rules of the wilderness, which means we can’t use mechanized machinery. We can’t use chainsaws or helicopters to drop water on the fire. As it is, we are being really successful with these MIST techniques. Right now we are doing all of this without any of the normal tools that we might use on a wildfire.”

Photo of the Birch Canyon Fire, believed to have started from an unattended campfire (Courtesy: U.S. Forest Service)

The Weber Basin crew and forest service firefighters are camped near the fire. They are planning to continue to improve existing fire lines and closely monitor the blaze.

Weed said the fire is a scary reminder to make sure campfires are extinguished completely and never left unattended, especially during this time of year of hot temperatures and little rainfall.

“That is what happens, a lot of times people will leave the fire early in the morning and it appears to be dead, but then during the day, when the temperatures increase and the humidity drops, the fire activity picks up. And the fire actually starts increasing in activity and may jump out of the containment ring.”

Firefighters currently report the fire is approximately 30 percent contained. Smoke will continue to be visible and does not need to be reported to law enforcement.

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