Family helps fire from spreading in Cottonwood Canyon
The Fire in Joe's Valley
The Walker family was camping in Cottonwood Canyon of Joe's Valley over the 4th of July weekend. Our camp site was 8.6 miles up Cottonwood Canyon. (Mom and Dad, 6 of their 8 grown children and their spouses, and 15 grandchildren ages 1-18)
On Tuesday, we went down to Huntington Reservoir to fish and swim. That afternoon we could see a pretty fierce storm coming up that looked like it might be hitting our campsite. When it got to the reservoir, we packed up and headed back to camp.
The storm had been there for sure. Two tents were damaged, with broken poles and rips, and everything was soaked. As we worked to clean up the camp, Bart Walker, a 26-year-old husband and father of 1-year-old Hank, noticed a smoking tree about a mile across the canyon and about 2/3 up the ridge.
Bart decided he better do something about it. Brother-in-law Aaron Hadfield, a teacher at Brighton High, and father of four, and one of his sons, Read Hadfield, 16, (and about to get his Eagle), and another nephew, Chase Walker, 14, (also about to get his Eagle) all went with Bart. They took an ax, two shovels and a machete and headed up the ridge.
In the meantime, Bruce Walker, (Dad, retired Salt Lake County Deputy Sheriff) went shooting down the canyon until he could get cell phone service to call the Forest Service. Bruce got a call back from dispatch within 10 minutes telling him that the fire unit was already on their way.
It took nearly an hour for Bart, Aaron, Read and Chase to get to the burning tree. The tree that was burning was about 60 feet tall, and already dead and very dry. This was a very large tree, about 2 Â½ - 3 feet in diameter. It had been struck by lightning, and the top 1/3 was split open and burning. There were smoking charred chunks of the tree scattered around and the ground was covered with dry deadfall and lots of undergrowth. We started right in, putting out the smoking chunks, then started clearing a fireline around the tree where the burning chunks kept falling. It took about two hours. During this time Bart also cut branches off live quakie trees that were wet from the rain, and laid them around the tree to keep the area wet. That was the only water we had access to.
They then kept watch, stomping out burning chunks as they fell. A really big chunk, one of the pieces that had been split with the lightning strike, about 12 feet long, and on fire, came down. We shoveled dirt on it and put it out.
Aaron went to tell the rest of the family that we were all fine, that the burning tree was under control, and during his trip down the ridge he came across the Forest Service.
They had come right to the Walker campsite following Bruce's directions, and Bruce showed them the burning tree across the way. They took off, meeting Aaron along the way, who showed them to the site of the fire.
They were able to cut down the tree and get it completely put out.
They were very grateful for our help, and said that we had prevented a much more serious fire.