Evacuations to remain in place overnight in Utah neighborhoods after human-caused fire displaces hundreds
Sean Walker and Liesl Nielsen, KSL.com
Published at | Updated at
BOUNTIFUL — A thick haze filled the air as the sun rose above the mountains in Davis County Friday morning.
Dozens huddled in shelters after a rude awakening several hours earlier when a large fire swept through the foothills east of Bountiful and Centerville, destroying three homes and forcing hundreds of evacuations.
U.S. Forest Service officials confirmed Friday afternoon the blaze, dubbed the Gun Range Fire, was caused by a campfire near Bountiful “B.” Flames sparked just before 1 a.m. on the east bench, Bountiful Police Lt. Dave Edwards told reporters.
KSL.com reports officials were searching for two individuals in a small SUV in connection to the blaze.
Between 300 and 400 homes in the northeast portions of Bountiful and Centerville were evacuated in the early morning hours, but the Centerville evacuations ended by mid-morning and residents were able to return to their homes, though the entirety of Island View Drive is still closed to nonresidents.
Residents in North Bountiful were initially evacuated around 1400 North and 900 East, but those evacuation boundaries were later changed. The evacuation order is still in place at: all of East Hills Drive, 900 East from East Hills Drive to 900 North; 900 North, from 900 East to Northern Hills Drive; all of Northern Hills Drive and Northridge Drive, from Northern Hills Drive.
The evacuations will remain overnight, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Kim Osborn during a 2 p.m. press conference. Police and firefighters want to ensure that there is no danger that the fire might return, she added.
The fire was 10% contained and had burned 365 acres as of 5 p.m. Friday, fire officials said.
Three Bountiful homes were destroyed while another eight were damaged, but there have been no injuries or deaths, Edwards said.
Road closures were set up at 900 East, 400 North and northeast of Bountiful, he added.
Additionally, officials said Ward Canyon Road was closed from Forest Boundary E to the intersection with Skyline Drive and the intersection with Sessions Mountain Road, as of Friday afternoon.
Portions of North Fire Break Road were also closed along National Forest from the Bountiful B north to Ricks Creek.
During the early morning hours, the fire shifted, moving northward and slightly west, but firefighters established a line in the east hills to protect several homes. Initial wind gusts as high as 30 mph aided the fire’s early march toward residential areas, and the fire appeared to circle around the “B” on the mountain above Bountiful.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert arrived on scene Friday afternoon to discuss the blaze with fire officials. He praised firefighter efforts and emphasized that people should practice caution to avoid sparking flames. He noted that fire season isn’t over yet.
“We just need to be careful,” Herbert said. “We need to be smart we need to use common sense and make sure that we don’t do something foolish. It only takes just a mistake here or there.” Herbert also said his heart went out to those who lost property in the blaze.
“For those who’ve lost, it’s just a tragedy and our hearts go out to them and hope they can find ways to rebuild,” he said.
Photos and videos sent to KSL.com from readers showed firefighters responding to the fire in the hills above Bountiful. The winds in the area made fighting the fire difficult, according to witnesses; however, canyon winds appeared to be lessening, KSL meteorologist Grant Weyman tweeted about 5:30 a.m.
Evacuated persons and families are being welcomed at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meetinghouse at Main Street and Center Street. Edwards said that the number of people at the shelter is constantly fluctuating, but there were only about 10 people there at last count.
Two earlier shelters at 270 N. 300 East and 900 S. 400 East in Centerville have now been closed.
The fire did not affect schools in the Davis School District and classes planned to hold classes as usual Friday, according to a tweet from the district. However, school buses did not pick up students from the area closed to traffic: between 400 North to 1600 North and from 900 East up the mountainside.
District officials also planned to monitor air quality throughout the day. The fire is having “significant impacts” on air quality in the area, and pollution levels have risen to the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” range and are getting close to the “unhealthy” range, according to a tweet from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
Any parent who felt it was not safe to send their student to school was encouraged to keep them home.
“As always, teachers will work with your child regarding any work they may miss due to their absence,” the tweet from the district said.
In addition to more than 100 firefighters from Weber and Salt Lake counties, nearly 60 police officers and several members of the community also offered aid in the form of evacuation assistance and donated food, Edwards said.
The Red Cross accepted donated items at the Bountiful Tabernacle, located at Center and Main streets but no longer needs any donations, according to a tweet from the organization.
Donations were accepted at the Kaysville Police Department until 12:30 p.m. All donations were then delivered at that time, the department said in a tweet.
“We have not been advised of any specific donations needed,” the department added.
“We hope everybody’s OK, and our prayers go out to everybody, especially those who have lost homes and property,” said Beth Smoot, a Bountiful resident who was going between shelters, helping any way she could during the early morning hours.
Police urged the public not to dial 911 for information. Additional info is available at the Bountiful police nonemergency info number, 801-298-6294 and 801-298-6297.
This story will be updated if more information becomes available.