SALT LAKE CITY – A Utah wildfire that destroyed 52 homes and left one man dead was caused by arcing between power transmission lines that were built too closely together and sent a surge to the ground that ignited dry grass, a fire investigator said Wednesday.
The central Utah Wood Hollow Fire began June 23 and wasn’t fully contained for 10 days, costing nearly $4 million to fight, according to state officials. Officials said 160 structures total were destroyed.
The 75-square-mile blaze began when winds caused two sets of high-voltage power lines to either touch or swing close enough to each other to create a surge than swept down the poles into dry brush, said Deputy Utah Fire Marshal Troy Mills.
Rocky Mountain Power, which owns the lines, said a thief stripped protective copper wire from its poles that may have prevented the surge.
Mills, however, insisted that even with the copper wire in place, the surge would have easily overwhelmed the protections.
“That is the cause of the fire. There’s some things where you’ve got to take a stand. It is what it is,” Mills said.