Fire crews responded to the start of a wildfire at the mouth of Provo Canyon.
The fire, promptly named the Range Fire, reportedly broke out near a local gun range Saturday. The cause, however, is still under investigation.
Only hours after the Range Fire was first reported, the blaze had engulfed about 500 acres. Officials ordered evacuations for Squaw Peak Road south of Provo Canyon as well as five to 10 homes at the mouth of the canyon.
Volunteers with the Utah Red Cross opened an evacuation center at Foothill Elementary to support residents being evacuated.
U.S. Highway 189 also was closed due to fire activity, including smoke that was impacting visibility from the mouth of Provo Canyon to about mile marker 15, according to a statement by Utah Fire Info.
The Provo City Fire Department also announced the closure of Provo Canyon as well as the closure and evacuation of Timpanogos Park in a statement released at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
“Please avoid the area of Provo Canyon and find an alternate route home if you (are) in the canyon,” according to the statement. “Remember, DO NOT fly drones in the fire response area. When drones fly, air operations must be suspended.”
The Range Fire involved about 15 acres just before 1:30 p.m. As of 2:30 p.m. Saturday, the Range Fire was estimated to be at about 50-100 acres, according to Utah Fire Info.
According to a statement by Utah Fire Info, several agencies are working together to offer air and ground support in an effort to suppress the fire.
Weather experts warned of moderate to severe droughts throughout nearly all of Utah in June after residents experienced one of the state’s driest spring seasons in recorded history. The abnormally little precipitation caused increased wildfire risk across the state, including parts of Utah County.
Since the beginning of the year, over 1,300 wildfires have burned throughout the state and have already cost the state $20 million, fire officials told lawmakers in September.
As of Sept. 7, more than 225,000 acres of state land had been burned, according to Brian Cottam, director of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
Multiple fire agencies have come together to organize the “Spark Change” initiative, meant to raise awareness about wildfire risks in Utah.More information will be published as it becomes available.