I-80 open after eight-hour closure due to Parley’s Fire

Aug 7, 2020, 7:55 PM
fire crews, I-80 open after eight-hour closure due to Parley's Fire...
(Choppers drop water on the hot spots of the Parley's Fire. Credit: Paul Nelson)
(Choppers drop water on the hot spots of the Parley's Fire. Credit: Paul Nelson)

PARLEY’S CANYON – It’s not a big fire, but crews say it’s a hard one to fight.  Fire officials have reopened I-80 through Parley’s Canyon, but they say they still have a lot of work to do to knock down the Parley’s Fire. 

By Friday afternoon, officials estimated the fire had blackened about 80 acres and was only five percent contained.  The weather wasn’t as bad of a problem for fire crews as it was Thursday night, but the terrain in the area is very steep, making conditions very difficult for fire fighters.

The blaze is burning a little differently than others.  Kait Webb with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands says they call it a “dirty burn,” which means there is vegetation in the area hasn’t burned, and the area could reignite.  Investigators believe they know how it started.

(Choppers drop water on the hot spots of the Parley’s Fire. Credit: Paul Nelson)

“The suspected cause is a dragging chain from a vehicle.  We suspect it started along I-80,” Webb says.

However, they still need help from the public to find the driver.

Webb says, “If you’re driving in the area of Parley’s [Thursday] and noticed a large dump truck with a dark brown color that was dragging chains, please contact us and let us know.”

Crews closed I-80 between Foothill Blvd. and Jeremy Ranch for roughly eight hours because of the blaze.  Jeff Reynolds with the UDOT Incident Management Team says they needed to shut the interstate down to ensure choppers dumping water on the fire had a safe flight path as they criss-crossed I-80. 

Reynolds says, “That is a safety hazard for the public if one of those buckets dropped off by some chance and water hit them… it’s just safer for everybody to shut it down.”

Officials tried to give commuters as much warning as they could about the closure, but it still caught many people off-guard.

One commuter, Luke Hayes, says, “It’s unbelievable to have such a major freeway be totally shut down.  I feel bad for the truckers and the other guys who are trying to make their routes.”

Much bigger delays for truck drivers

When the freeway was closed, there was a line of semi-trucks pulled off to the side on westbound I-80 near the Jeremy Ranch exit, with drivers plotting their next move.  Some tell KSL they started their day early in the morning, and they were not told by their company the freeway was shutting down.  One driver, Jason Levesque, was only 23 miles away when the closure happened.

(Some of the drivers pulled over to the side of the freeway due to the closure. Credit: Paul Nelson)

He says, “My only alternate route is about 93 miles out of the way.”

The alternate routes for truckers were not great.  They could either take I-84 to Ogden or Hwy. 189 in Provo Canyon.  Levesque says either option would give him at least another two hours of driving.

“By the time I make that two-hour drive, I’ll be in rush hour in Salt Lake City and I probably will not be able to make it to my delivery point before they stop accepting deliveries,” he says.

Other drivers like Wilfredo Ortiz say if they miss a deadline on Friday, they’ll often have to wait a couple of days before they can unload their cargo.

Ortiz says, “Maybe, I won’t be able to do it until Monday.  I don’t know.”

One driver says if he has to wait until Monday to deliver, he won’t be back home for a week.



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I-80 open after eight-hour closure due to Parley’s Fire