6 structures destroyed, evacuations ordered after large fire erupts in Utah

Utah

0  Updated at 7:07 pm, September 5th, 2017 By: Carter Williams, KSL.com
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Courtesy KSL.com

UINTAH, Utah — At least six structures, including multiple homes, have been destroyed and mandatory evacuations have been ordered after a brush fire erupted in Weber Canyon Tuesday morning, authorities said.

In addition to the homes, many other structures were being threatened, Layton Fire Marshal Douglas Bitton said. Video of the fire captured by KSL Chopper 5 showed multiple homes in flames.

Weber Fire District Fire Marshal Brandon Thueson said authorities have told residents east of U.S. 89 in Uintah to leave their homes. He estimated about 900 residents were evacuated.

Streets in the evacuation zone include Bonneville Terrace Drive, Borg Circle, Bybee Drive, Combe Road and Karen Drive.

“We anticipate the current evacuation orders for the Uintah Highlands area through the evening, possibly through the evening and into tomorrow,” Thueson told KSL.com.

Those impacted by the fire are being told to report to the Dee Events Center, 4400 Harrison Blvd., in Ogden. Washington Heights Church, located at 1770 E. 6200 South in Ogden, said it is also opening its doors to those affected by the fire.

The fire also skipped I-84 and began threatening structures in South Weber, Bitton said. However, evacuations were lifted in South Weber and residents were allowed to return to their homes early Tuesday afternoon.

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Davis School District officials said South Weber Elementary School was evacuated Tuesday morning. Students who hadn’t been picked up by their parents were being bused to Clearfield High School.

Uintah Elementary was also evacuated as a precaution, according to Weber County officials. Parents can pick up their children at the Dee Events Center. Parents for both schools are being asked to bring their ID to pick up their children.

Lane Findlay, spokesman for Weber School District, said about 700 students were transported to the Dee Events Center. He said the school had experienced a power outage and the fire was noticed shortly after.

The district said late Tuesday that it expects to send out notifications soon on whether school will be in session Wednesday at Uintah Elementary. “All other schools remain open but there may be some transportation issues at H. Guy Child, South Ogden Junior and Bonneville, with buses being unable to get into some of the evacuated areas. More information will follow,” the district said.

More evacuations are possible overnight depending on fire activity, Bitton said. He recommended people living near the fire be ready to evacuate in case the need arises.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorized the use of federal money to help with firefighting costs. The agency reports at least 300 homes are immediately threatened by the blaze.

Utah Department of Transportation officials said U.S. 89 is closed in both directions at the I-84 junction. That has been extended to Harrison Boulevard in Ogden to 3000 North in Layton and is expected to remain closed for several hours.

The fire also closed down I-84 from the Riverdale to Peterson in Morgan County for several hours. However, Thueson said I-84 westbound to U.S. 89 had been reopened at 1 p.m. Drivers were being forced to travel south on U.S. 89.

Courtesy KSL.com

UDOT officials said I-80 and I-15 can be used as an alternative route.

Multiple agencies are helping battle the fire, Bitton said. Fightfighters from Weber, Davis, Box Elder and Cache counties, as well as crews from the U.S. Forest Service and various cities have been dispatched to fight the fire.

Bitton said the fire has already burned 1,200 acres and is zero percent contained, as of 3:30 p.m. It originated sometime around 7:15 a.m.

With the wind, Bitton said embers originally were blowing close to 30 to 40 feet, causing other fires to spark in the area.

“Firefighters are working feverishly with these downslope winds that are approximately 40 mph,” he said.

The wind prevented officials from using helicopters to fight the flames, but they have since been given the clear to fight the fire, Utah Fire Info officials said. Thueson said the fire is now moving northwest and five fixed-winged planes and two helicopters were helping battle the flames.

He added Utah’s Type 1 Incident Management Team was expected to help battle the fire Wednesday.

Officials have asked residents in the area to not use their sprinklers to keep the fire away. The fire departments need the water to fight the fire.

Mark Sheffield, whose mother-in-law lives in the area near where the fire was burned, said he witnessed the fire spread toward the backyard of multiple homes, though he did not see a home destroyed.

“(Fire crews) are doing a pretty good job keeping it in control by the homes, but the fire itself is definitely out of control as it’s going up toward nonstructured areas,” Sheffield said.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, though Bitton said officials have received reports from witnesses that power lines were sparking near the area the fire broke out.

Smoke from the fire has also created problems for those in the area. Hill Aerospace Museum at Hill Air Force Base closed early because of smoke.

This article was originally published by KSL.com. It is used here with permission.