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Salt Lake City firefighters continue fighting I-80 fire

Aug 20, 2019, 2:30 PM
Fire burned lots of grass along I-80 near the airport, like this area near Wright Brothers Drive, before firefighters got a handle on it. Photo: Kelli Pierce

SALT LAKE CITY – Salt Lake City firefighters are slowly putting out a large grass fire that jumped I-80 and temporarily closed the highway.

Division Chief Ryan Mellor says it started before 10:00 a.m. near a rail yard off 5600 West. The dry, windy weather pushed it down along the eastbound lanes towards Wright Brothers Drive.

“It dries out the moisture, which makes [the grass] more susceptible to fire, and wind doesn’t usually move in a straight line. It swirls, so directions can change in a heartbeat,” Mellor said.

That change in direction caused sparks to jump the highway, setting the grass on fire along the westbound lanes.

The smoke was so thick from the fire, I-80 was shut down in both directions until it cleared, with drivers diverted from Tooele County at SR-201 to avoid the backup.

Flareups have been happening all afternoon, including in a nearby pile of hay.

What caused the fire is under investigation.

A later fire in the median east of the airport appeared to be unrelated.

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Salt Lake City firefighters continue fighting I-80 fire