Skip to main content

Idaho Enterprise

Fire on the Summit Contained

Residents of the Malad Summit are breathing a sigh of relief after the close fire scare that was nearly minutes away from endangering their properties and homes Friday, September 2.  The hotter than normal weather, coupled with blustering winds escalated what began as a car fire into a moving brush fire that could have easily devastated many families and homes.

At approximately 2:07 in the afternoon, a car traveling southbound on I-15 pulled over to the shoulder and caught fire.  The hot and dry September conditions made it easy for the fire to move through the dry grass, brush and trees.  With the wind picking up and moving in a north/northwest direction, those fire started heading toward several homes.  Fortunately, a vacant lot stood between the fire and the many homes that gave just enough time for fire crews to respond to the fire and contain it before any major damage could occur.

The Malad Fire Department was first on the scene with several brush trucks and water tenders, brought in by their willing and able volunteer firefighters.  To assist with the fire control efforts, Malad’s crew was joined by other supporting mutual aid departments from Holbrook, Inkom, and Downey, as well as from the BLM and Forest Service crews stationed in Malad.

While the various departments worked to contain and put out the fire, the Oneida County deputies, assisted by Search and Rescue volunteers, closed the roads in and out of the Summit and Powerhouse areas.  As the fire continued to move quickly across the open area, those homes closest to the fire were immediately evacuated from the area for their own safety.

Fortunately, the firefighters managed to take the upper hand and were able to stop the spread of the fire and keep those homeowners from experiencing what could have been such overwhelming loss.  The fire did spread within feet of some homes, but the firefighters' earnest efforts and gallons upon gallons of water kept further disaster at bay.  It wasn’t long before the fire was contained and the home owners were allowed to return to their properties.

The mailbox lineup incurred some of the most damage as the fire neared E 11000 N.  The road provided a natural fire break that was key to keeping the fire from continuing moving north and becoming a greater danger to a larger number of Summit residents.  Had the fire jumped the road, it would have had a very different and possibly devastating outcome.

Several power poles along the road also suffered fire damage, which in turn provided additional complications to the situation.  Firefighters were worried that if the damage was significant enough, the poles might become weak and break, bringing powerlines down with them.  This was especially concerning as the powerlines ran across the interstate and could pose a very serious threat to oncoming motorists.  To prevent further possible damage and accidents, both lanes of I-15 were closed until it was determined that the integrity of the poles was sufficient.

Although the large burn scar is a significant reminder of the potential tragedy for the Summit residents, they are immensely grateful for the volunteers that protected their homes.  One resident said, “We owe them such a big thank you.  Seriously, without them, I probably would have lost my home.  It was really that close.”  While some damage will take time to overcome, new mailboxes and power poles have already been replaced to help the Summit residents settle back in and put this scare behind them.

It is recommended that homes in or near a wildland area should have defensible space as a preventive measure in the event a wildfire occurs.  A defensible space acts as a buffer to slow or stop a fire, whether by embers, radiant heat or actual flame.  To create such a buffer, homeowners should include hardscaping to their property that simply won’t catch fire, remove any dead weeds, grasses, bushes or trees, and keep lawns trimmed short and well watered.  It is these kinds of practices that gave firefights the leg up they needed to get around the Summit fire. The long term efforts the Summit homeowners have made to keep such a space has proven to make all the difference in losing their homes and not.