SALT LAKE CITY – Firefighters faced a threat of strong wind gusts Monday as they battled a huge wildfire in central Utah, where several small communities were evacuated.
Spotty rain and increased humidity helped during the weekend, but the Salt Creek fire grew to nearly 33 square miles Monday.
Afternoon thunderstorms were expected to produce wind gusting as high as 50 mph, fire information officer Michelle Fidler said. There was already enough wind to carry smoke from the blaze 90 miles north to Salt Lake City.
The fire was burning about two miles west of Fountain Green, but no evacuations were ordered in the town of approximately 1,000 residents. It started Thursday and was 15 percent contained, Fidler said.
The small towns of Oaker Hills, Indian Ridge, Elk Ridge, Indianola and Holiday Oaks already were evacuated, and a shelter was set up at a school in Mount Pleasant.
Dozens of other large fires were burning across the West, primarily in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah.
In southwestern Utah, the Dakota Hill fire in and around Zion National Park was 40 percent contained after burning 8,942 acres, or 14 square miles.
"Lingering cloud cover and higher humidity allowed firefighters to initiate direct attack," fire managers said.
No buildings had burned, but an evacuation order remained in place for about 800 homes, said Deanna Younger, a fire-information officer.
Most were unoccupied seasonal homes, and only about 50 people were evacuated, she said.
In northwestern Utah, several ranches in the small communities of Etna and Grouse Creek were evacuated as a fire ignited by lightning Friday grew to 30,000 acres, or nearly 47 square miles. It was about 5 percent contained.