Residents unfazed by fire
Evacuation orders failed to frighten most residents whose homes were threatened by the fire near Wanship on Wednesday, according to Dot Young, 82, who has already been through similar fire warnings twice.
"They told us to evacuate but we’ve been through this before," she said with a laugh. "I sat across the road and watched it with all my neighbors."
She did take precautions with some valuables, including a fireproof box where she keeps valuable documents and family pictures, which she packed in her car, parking it just across the street.
"I didn’t even pack clothes," Young said. "I never thought about it because I wasn’t worried a bit."
Others took more care with their belongings, including neighbors new to the area who loaded up both cars and another couple who shepherded their geese to safety, according to Young.
"They’ve got a lot of geese, and they were herding geese across the road," she said. "It was kind of funny to watch. But most of us have been through this before and we thought, ‘Well there isn’t any danger.’ But that was our excitement for the day."
The fire was first spotted alongside Interstate 80, northeast of Wanship on the hillside overlooking the former Spring Chicken Inn restaurant.
According to North Summit Fire Chief Marc Giauque at around 2:30 p.m., the fire quickly grew to about 50 acres and crews were working to keep the fire away from the homes.
There was no structural damage to any of the 15 buildings and cell phone tower threatened, although a fence was damaged.
Residents in about 10 homes near the fire were given the evacuation order by the Summit County Sheriff’s department through the local emergency notification system.
The county uses the system frequently for various incidents, such as when they are about to serve a high risk search warrant or if they have a hostage situation, because it allows them to isolate certain neighborhoods for communication, according to Summit County Sheriff Chief Dave Edmunds.
In addition to the emergency notification call to the residents, they also had deputies going door to door.
"So there was some redundancy there. We weren’t relying on just the phones," Edmunds said.
Summit County landlines are automatically registered with the county’s emergency notification system, but those who rely solely on cell phones, or those outside the home at the time of the call, won’t be able to receive the time-sensitive messages.
Because of this, Edmunds said they encourage people to get their cell phones registered with the county so they can get important information.
Overall, Edmunds feels the suppression effort went really well.
"It could have easily gotten out of hand and there were structures that were threatened several times throughout," he said. "The deputies were able to arrive on scene quickly and the fire fighters did an outstanding job putting it down rapidly. I’d like to think it was a good example of how efficiently county government worked in this particular instance."
Crews from the North and South Summit Fire Districts, Summit County Public Works and the state Forestry Department worked on the fire line and Summit County Search and Rescue assisted with the temporary evacuation. A bulldozer was used to cut a fire line down to the soil.
Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands Area Manager Mike Eriksson said the fire should be completely contained by the end of the week, depending on if the area has another red flag warning like yesterday.
"I think the winds are going to pick up this afternoon, but the fire out there is looking really good and is 95 percent contained right now," Eriksson said on Thursday.
He said he isn’t surprised that those threatened by the fire didn’t evacuate.
"They have the prerogative to do that," he said. "Quite honestly, of the structures that were threatened, only two of them were really seriously threatened. Even those ones, they had been watering their grass."
He said it was interesting that when he got to the top of the hill where the fire was, anywhere there was green grass, the fire would go out.
"But it was another wake-up call that even though we had a small rainstorm, it doesn’t mean the fire storm is over," he said. "And we are getting the red flag warning today because the fire conditions are still high over there, so people need to be careful."
He cautioned the community to be aware of their surroundings, particularly if they are welding or going ATVing, as the county is still in fire restrictions.
Eriksson said that because the last lightning was four or five days ago, they believe the fire was human-caused.
"So it’s either an accident that someone hasn’t come forward about, or it could even have been someone driving by and scraped something on the ground. Who knows. It could have been anything," he said.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the cause of the fire.
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