Nearly 9,000 evacuated as Utah fire explodes

Saturday, June 23, 2012
By Paul Martin
June 23, 2012

SALT LAKE CITY — Thousands of homes were evacuated from two small Utah communities on Friday as high winds whipped up a brush fire triggered by target shooters and pushed the flames toward houses and a nearby explosives factory. The so-called Dump fire erupted Thursday in the Kiowa Valley near a landfill for Saratoga Springs, a town of 18,000 on the west shore of Utah Lake, about 35 miles south of Salt Lake City. Nearly 9,000 people had been evacuated, Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Cannon told The Deseret News. The blaze initially scorched about 750 acres of cheat grass, sage and pinyon juniper south and west of town, but by Friday, a combination of strong winds and rising heat shifted the fire’s direction and sparked rapid growth, Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Teresa Rigby said. By Friday evening, the blaze had grown to more than 4,000 acres. Rigby said fire crews had cut containment lines around 20 percent of the blaze, but that number slipped as flames spread. About 100 firefighters were working the blaze on Friday, with more teams expected, Rigby said. Air support was being provided by one air tanker and one helicopter. A red-flag warning for high wildfire hazards was posted across Utah, and Rigby said authorities are expecting winds of more than 20 mph by afternoon. Sheriff’s deputies with bullhorns rolled through Saratoga Springs neighborhoods ordering the first evacuations at about 10 a.m., after flames had burned to within half a mile of homes. By midday, evacuations were expanded to include a portion of nearby Eagle Mountain, just east of Saratoga Springs. -MSNBC

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