Wind-whipped Twitchell fire doubles to 21,000 acres


High winds have nearly doubled the size of the Twitchell Canyon wildfire to 21,000 acres, forcing intermittent closures of Interstate 70 in central Utah.

The Utah Highway Patrol said the fire, burning since July 20 when it was sparked by lightning in Fishlake National Forest, cut visibility dangerously low as smoke billowed across I-70 Tuesday.

The highway had been reopened by mid-morning Wednesday with some restrictions. UHP said two lanes of traffic were open on westbound I-70, although the far right lane remained closed on eastbound I-70 between the town of Joseph and the highway’s junction with Interstate 15.

The Twitchell Canyon fire has been allowed to burn while crews focus on keeping it from spreading outside of the rugged and remote stretches of conifer and shrub lands about 7 miles east of Manderfield Reservoir.

No injuries or damage have been reported. However, with erratic winds expected to continue this week, the Forest Service said it has ordered additional crews to the blaze and posted voluntary evacuation notices at the Castle Rock Campground near Clear Creek Canyon.

The fire has jumped from just under 11,000 acres on Monday to 20,862 acres by noon Wednesday.

A pair of bulldozers and two helicopters carrying water and fire retardant were assisting roughly 75 firefighters in trying to hem in the blaze as of mid-day Wednesday. Another six hand crews — about 120 personnel — were expected to join them by nightfall.