Rockport fire finally retreats
August 16, 2013
Ron and Judy Cella, who own a home near the top of Rockport Estates, delivered an emotional thank you to firefighters on Friday.
"We wanted to say thank you to the people who put their lives on the line for us," she said. Choking up she added, "The fire was on all three sides. It came so close ."
But Summit County Fire Warden Bryce Boyer deflected some of the credit for saving the house to the Cellas themselves.
"A lot of what helped is that they did a lot of prep work. We can’t emphasize that enough. You have to do the prep work to create a defensible space so we can protect structures."
Judy Cella said they had cleared brush and done a lot of yard work just two weeks ago. Still, she added, "it is humbling to see this act of nature."
As of Friday, the Cellas were still not allowed to move back into their home, due to lingering safety concerns in Rockport Estates and Rockport Ranches. However, the evacuation orders for Promontory and Bridge Hollow that had been in place since the fire started Tuesday were lifted Thursday evening.
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During a roadside press conference in Wanship Thursday night, Boyer said the fire was 50 percent contained. He also offered a revised summary of the damage, saying eight homes had been lost, significantly fewer than the previously announced tally of 14 homes.
Of those houses that were destroyed, all were located in North Summit and three were primary residences.
Promontory on alert but unaffected
Officials believe the Rockport Fire was ignited by a lightning strike near S.R. 32 at the base of Rockport Estates. Due to high winds and this summer’s extremely dry conditions, the fire galloped westward toward the Promontory development, which is located in the Park City Fire District.
The flames subsided Tuesday night but flared again Wednesday, triggering a major attack including tanker planes, helicopters and ground crews. According to Park City Fire District Chief Paul Hewitt, at midday on Wednesday the winds shifted 180 degrees from the north to the south, pushing flames through the scrub oak to within 300 feet of one of the outermost homes in Promontory. However, with fire crews staged at several key points, he said was confident they could maintain a perimeter around the development.
As a precaution, though, Promontory was included in the mandatory evacuation orders. state law that meant residents could still stay in their homes, but if they left they risked being barred from re-entry. According to the Summit County Sheriff’s Department, one man was arrested Thursday for disregarding the order and plowing through the barricade at Promontory.
On Thursday, Promontory Managing Director Rich Sonntag praised the fire suppression efforts.
"A lot of people have been risking their lives to fight this fire and everyone here is incredibly grateful. We are so appreciative of the help from all the agencies involved and so many brave pilots."
According to Sonntag, there are 375 completed homes in the development that stretches eastward from U.S. 40 near Silver Summit toward Interstate 80 and Brown’s Canyon Road.
Sonntag added that the development had incorporated many fire safety precautions including fire-resistant roofing materials and lots of hydrants. It was good to see that planning pay off; it made our eastern border defensible," he said.
As of Friday the Red Cross assistance center at the LDS meetinghouse in Trailside had closed. However, the Red Cross was still maintaining a presence at the North Summit Middle School. The centers offered temporary shelter, meals, water and emotional support to people displaced by the fire and evacuation orders.
Also, a Multiagency Resource Center (MARC) will be available for those who have been affected by the fire. According to a press release from the Red Cross, several agencies are available there to help with continuing "emergency needs and recovery planning."
The MARC is located at the Wanship LDS Church Meeting House, 30899 Old Lincoln Highway and will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday.