Car ignited wildfire that destroyed 4 Utah houses

Car ignited wildfire that destroyed 4 Utah houses

02 July 2012

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USA -SALT LAKE CITY, UT — The wildfire that swept through a foothills community southwest of Salt Lake City started when a homeowner parked his car on dry grass, a fire chief said Sunday.

The man’s house was spared as four others were destroyed, said Unified Fire Authority Fire Chief Michael Jensen. The fire also destroyed or damaged 13 other structures Friday in a subdivision of Herriman.

The fire was sparked by the car’s hot exhaust parts.

“The car ignited cheat grass and weeds and when the winds picked up, the fire took off running,” Jensen said Sunday.

It took dozens of fire engines and several helicopters and air tankers to save the neighborhood in a drama that played for hours on live television late Friday. Crews chased the fire onto tinder-dry public lands above Herriman, about 20 miles south of Salt Lake City.

The 660-acre Rosecrest fire was 65 percent contained Sunday with hot spots that will keep crews busy for days, he said. An evacuation order was lifted late Saturday.

Elsewhere in Utah, the 20,000-acre Seeley fire was only 5 percent contained with dry thunderheads kicking up flames as high as 200 feet on a northeast front facing Price, a coal-mining town of more than 8,000 about 20 miles away.

“Price is socked in with heavy smoke. It’s just awful there,” Seeley fire spokeswomen Jonetta Trued said late Sunday, knocking down a rumor that a new wildfire had broken out.

Crews of 160 firefighters, 19 engines and eight helicopters are attacking the Seeley fire, which idled two coal mines days ago. The fire has stripped more than 31 square miles of dense, overgrown stands of beetle-killed spruce in Manti-LaSal National Forest.

Meanwhile, Carbon County Sheriff James Cordova temporarily lifted an evacuation order for full-time residents of Scofield. The U.S. Census Bureau says 14 of Scofield’s 83 houses are occupied year-round.

Firefighters managed to save a 1930s ranger station in Huntington Canyon, the pride of foresters.

Two new wildfires started Sunday afternoon and one of them has prompted evacuations, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Tina Greenhalgh of the Color Country Interagency Fire Center says the blaze in Kane County about 30 miles southeast of Cedar City had burned about 300 acres of forest land by Sunday night.

Greenhalgh says about 100 cabins were threatened in Swains Creek and Stout Creek and that an undetermined residents of those areas had been evacuated.

Cache County fire crews are fighting a grass fire in Millville Canyon about five miles south of Logan. The fire has scorched 120 acres, but Logan City Fire says no structures are threatened.

Elsewhere, the state’s largest wildfire has consumed more than 150 square miles, destroying one summer house and threatening 75 others.

Hundreds of firefighters are trying to keep the Clay Springs fire from advancing on the ranching towns of Scipio and Mills on the edge of Utah’s west desert.

The fire was 40 percent contained on Sunday, but fire managers say flames are showing “extreme resistance” to control under strong winds. The fire grew by about 18 square miles Saturday.

About 70 miles south of Salt Lake City, an evacuation order was lifted for Indianola, allowing residents to return to the rubble of 52 houses in the hills west of Utah’s Route 89, as the Wood Hollow fire neared full containment.

Gabe Payne choked up over the ashes of the cabin he and his wife built several years ago. “I thought we were on another planet, like Mars or something. I mean there’s just nothing left — nothing green — it’s just burnt dirt,” he told the Deseret News of Salt Lake City

The 73-square-mile Wood Hollow fire was blamed for the death of an Indianola-area man whose body was found last week near a burned home. Authorities haven’t identified the victim.

Several wildfires are burning across Utah, downgrading air quality. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality put out a “red” ozone alert Sunday for Utah County, which is accumulating smoke from distant wildfires. A “yellow” ozone warning was issued for Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Box Elder, Tooele and Uintah counties.

The extreme fire risk has canceled fireworks celebrations in several Utah towns, and dozens of cities and towns have banned the use of fireworks by anyone, state fire marshal Brent Halladay said.

Federal and state authorities have prohibited fireworks and open fires on public lands in Utah, state forester Dick Buehler said.

Henefer Mayor Randy Ovard says he’s saving his town’s fireworks for News Year’s Eve.

“It’s a bummer not to have it” for the Fourth of July “but the community understands safety’s more important than 35 minutes worth of show,” Ovard told KSL-TV.

A grocery cooperative said it wouldn’t sell fireworks in cities and towns where they are banned. Salt Lake City-based Associated Food Stores said it had a “moral duty” to pull fireworks out of stores. The company operates Macey’s, Dan’s, Lin’s, Dick’s and Fresh Market grocery stores, and is a wholesaler for other independent grocers.

“It doesn’t make any sense for us to sell fireworks” in places where it is banned, Associated Food Stores spokesman Kris Romeril said Sunday. “We can’t tell our membership what to do, but we do have corporate-owned stores.”

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