Utah wildfire forces at least 1,000 people to flee

8:32 PM, Jun 24, 2012   |    comments
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Crews faced dry, hot weather Sunday in their battle against a fast-moving wildfire in central Utah that forced at least 1,000 people to flee their homes.

The 15-square-mile blaze around the Sanpete County town of Fountain Green was threatening 359 permanent structures and 213 mobile homes and travel trailers in rural areas, Bureau of Land Management spokesman Don Carpenter said.

While he was unsure of the breakdown, Carpenter thought most of the 359 permanent structures were homes and summer cabins.

"I would say there's a lot of uncertainty about what this fire is going to do," he told The Associated Press. "The challenge is the weather conditions, hot and dry, and the fuels themselves are extremely dry, and that's what we're dealing with."

The fire had burned one structure, but Carpenter was unsure of the type of structure. No major injuries were reported.

The blaze was burning brush and trees in hilly terrain. Flames were up to 100 feet Saturday night and 35 feet Sunday, he said.

In West Jordan, a wind-whipped field fire, which is believed to have started after a tree fell on a power line, destroyed two homes Saturday.

Elsewhere in Utah, officials reported progress on a 9-square-mile wildfire around Saratoga Springs, about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City, which had forced some 2,300 people to flee their homes. A mandatory evacuation order was lifted late Saturday afternoon.

The fire sparked Thursday by target shooters was 40 percent contained, and crews were trying to improve containment lines around homes in the Saratoga Springs area.

Progress also was reported on a 3-square-mile brush fire around the community of Leeds in southern Utah that caused the evacuation of about 60 homes Saturday. The evacuation order was lifted late Saturday.

The blaze was 90 percent contained and no longer posed a threat to any homes. No homes were burned, but two sheds were destroyed.

A person accused of starting the fire by burning highly-combustible cheatgrass on BLM-managed land would be cited and asked to cover firefighting costs, BLM spokesman Nick Howell said.

"We can't afford to keep putting the fires out and passing on the cost to taxpayers," Howell said.

A 24-square-mile brush fire near the central Utah town of Delta was 90 percent contained Sunday. No homes were burned in the human-caused blaze.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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