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Early warning helps keeps blaze in check

(Left): PHOTO COURTESY UTAH FIRE INFO Ground fire crews work on mop up efforts with the Willow Creek Fire, which is nearing 100 percent containment after being held from further growth at just under 50 acres. (Right): PHOTO COURTESY JOHN ANDEWS This photo of the Willow Creek Fire, which was located in the hills southeast of Axtell, was taken by a Mayfield man who discovered and reported the fire to emergency response teams.

WILLOW CREEK—When the hills southeast of Axtell ignited and officially became the Willow Creek Fire, it was a Mayfield man who sounded the alarm, and firefighters took good advantage of the early discovery to keep the blaze in check.

John Andrews was spending some time in his backyard on Wednesday, July 7 when he noticed some smoke coming from the Willow Creek area to the southwest.

“I saw the smoke over the south fields so I drove down there and called in the fire on Wednesday afternoon,” Andrews told the Messenger, “then I waited for the authorities to arrive and took some pictures.”

Getting a leg up on a wildfire, especially during a severe drought season like the one most of Utah is currently experiencing, can make a big difference in how easy it is to contain a fire. The Willow Creek Fire burnt quickly through the pinyon juniper and hungrily grew beyond 25 acres in the afternoon it started.

Air and ground resources began fighting the fire with a primary goal of containment. Fortunately, no structures were in immediate danger so firefighting resources did not need to be used on structure defense.

Over the first 24 hours of battling the Willow Creek Fire, air and ground crews, including the Dromedary Peak and Snake River hotshots, were able to keep the fire from expanding too quickly, holding off its growth to 48 acres before  ultimately making progress on containment.

As of the time of press, fire officials were reporting 90 percent containment or better, with minimal creeping and smoldering behavior. Crews will continue their mop up efforts and pursue total security with the fire line.