Wildfires across West destroy, threaten homes

Utah blaze levels 13 residences in resort town of Park City

and BRADY McCOMBS


WANSHIP, Utah — A wildfire threatened hundreds of homes Wednesday after destroying more than a dozen others outside the resort town of Park City.

The lightning-sparked blaze was among several in the West where fires have devoured dry grass and brush and burned to the edges of small communities.

Shifting winds in Utah pushed the fire toward homes in a subdivision about 10 miles outside Park City. It destroyed a dozen homes on Tuesday, plus another home overnight. Fire officials say it also burned 20 outbuildings and several vehicles and boats.

The fire began near a populated area and had grown to 2,000 acres, or nearly 3 square miles, by Wednesday evening. About 250 homes northeast of Park City remain threatened, including some along a golf course in the gated community of Promontory.

Residents who hoped to return home Wednesday night aren't likely to be allowed back in until Thursday at the earliest, said Utah fire official Mike Eriksson. Some were allowed to pick up pets and medication early Wednesday.

Steady winds and rising temperatures stoked the fire Wednesday afternoon, sending large clouds of brownish-black smoke into the sky.

The fire was still only about 25 percent contained, said Eriksson.

"The winds haven't been helping out with this fire," Eriksson said. "It's definitely growing."

The lighting strike that ignited the blaze Tuesday shook Kim Alderman's convenience store, and flames were visible within a few minutes.

The fire then spread into the gated communities of Rockport Ranches and Rockport Estates, mostly middle-class homes used as primary residences, said Alderman, owner of the Rafter B Gas N' Grub in Wanship.

Brenda Child was at a nearby lake with her 6-year-old grandson when she saw the flames Tuesday afternoon. She raced home in her car and ran into the house with her shirt covering her mouth to avoid breathing in the smoke.

She grabbed her dog, computer and insurance policy and left.

When she was allowed to return Wednesday, she found the 3,000-square-foot house she and her husband moved into three months ago untouched.

"I was absolutely horrified that our house was going to be gone," Child said.

Several helicopters and one large DC-10 tanker plane were used on the fire Wednesday, dropping fire retardant. More than 100 people were assigned to help fight the fire.

In west-central Utah's Skull Valley, more than 20 structures had been threatened by the Patch Springs fire on Tuesday. Crews made progress and officials said Wednesday the structures were no longer threatened by the 16-square-mile blaze.

More than 250 firefighters were working to contain the largest blaze in Utah, which jumped across the border into Idaho. The lightning-caused State fre has charred almost 36 square miles in steep and rugged terrain. It was 50 percent contained.

In Idaho, fire crews prepared to capitalize on favorable winds and lower temperatures to continue burnout operations around the small mountain community of Pine, where the Elk Complex remained the nation's No. 1 firefighting priority.

The lightning-caused fire has burned across more than 175 square miles and destroyed structures in the community of Fall Creek, fire spokeswoman Ludie Bond said.

A wildfire near Glenwood Springs, Colo., prompted a small number of evacuations Tuesday, Garfield County Sheriff's Office spokesman Walter Stowe said.

The Red Canyon fire was threatening 20 structures and was 10 percent contained Wednesday.

Meanwhile, health district officials in northern Nevada were monitoring air quality concerns due to smoky haze from a wildfire in the Tahoe National Forest more than 60 miles away.


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