The Pioneer Day weekend, an annual traditional festival celebrated in Northern Utah, was canceled due to a major wildfire that raged at Antelope Island State Park on Friday. The fire started reaching more than 200 acres, and allegedly it began since Thursday, but authorities and local firefighters received the report on Friday.

Latest reports state that the wildfire reached about 10,000 acres, which means that more than 70 percent of the areas in the State Park were threatened, so evacuation was needed, mostly to let fire crews attack and control the wildfire effectively without putting visitors at risk. Campsites were affected since northwest of the Fielding Garr Ranch is one of the areas where most camps are developed, and it was precisely in this area where the fire was centered. Authorities decided to send a helicopter Saturday morning to control the wildfire.

The West Antelope Island Fire was ignited by a lightning strike on Thursday. Crews first arrived on scene at about 5:30 p.m. Friday. Credit: Fox13now

Antelope Island, a state park in Utah, is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake. Plenty outdoor activities are held on Antelope Island, including bird watching, hiking, cycling and other eco-tourism-related activities.

Who responded?

The Syracuse Fire Department and the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Land were the authorities that responded to the wildfire, but some volunteer fire crews were also involved. The primary concern of officials and volunteers was to protect historical and natural areas from the damage produced by the fire. Even though there are not regular villages or towns on the Island, there are some historical structures that needed protection.

Fire crews and helicopters are still around the area, doing both fire control and damage control in those areas where the fire already stopped. However, authorities from the Fire Units stated that some regions, including the Fielding Garr Ranch and the All Back hiking trail are closed and will remain closed until fire crews leave the area. Whether if some fire crews will stay on the Island as prevention measure has not been stated by the authorities from the Fire Departments.

What happened with the Pioneer Day weekend?

Pioneer Day is actually more than just a festival. In Utah, is an entire holiday celebrated each July 24 to celebrate the historical entry of the first group of pioneers, a Mormon community, in the Salt Lake Valley, back in the nineteen century. The spirit of the festival is to commemorate the courage of original settlers and explorers.

People from all over the country visit the State Park to be part of the parades, picnics and outdoor games. The celebration is major for Utah’s cultural background and identity. In Utah people learn about the relevance of the pioneer spirit since they are young so this holiday is quite expected.

The wildfire forced the cancellation of the 2016 edition of the Pioneer Day Weekend; that was planned for Saturday. Utah’s authorities have not stated yet whether the festival will be executed shortly.

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune