Utah wildfire evacuees allowed to return to homes

A wildfire west of Utah Lake sends flames shooting into the sky Friday, June 22, 2012. Residents of at least 2,300 homes in northern Utah were being evacuated Friday after high winds kicked up a fire started by target shooters.
AP Photo/Paul Fraughton, Salt Lake Tribune

(AP) About 2,300 Utah wildfire evacuees were allowed to return to their homes Saturday evening after officials determined the blaze no longer posed a threat to them.

The decision came after the fire had burned Friday within a quarter mile of some homes in Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain, about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City, Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Teresa Rigby said.

No homes have burned, she said, and fire officials were comfortable with the decision to lift the evacuation order after seeing how the 9-square-mile blaze behaved Saturday afternoon during high winds and high temperatures.

"The fire itself is still active but it no longer is a direct threat to homes," Rigby told The Associated Press. "Most of the fire is up on the mountain at this time and not near the subdivisions."

Thousands evacuate Utah wildfire

The evacuation order, imposed Friday, affected nearly 600 homes and roughly 2,300 residents, according to an updated count released Saturday by fire officials.

Winds pushed some of the fire back on itself Saturday afternoon, Rigby said, and crews managed to put out "hot spots" closest to homes.

The fire that officials believe was started Thursday by target shooters was 30 percent contained Saturday evening, with full containment expected Tuesday.

Crews also were battling a 16,500-acre brush fire on high desert near the town of Delta in central Utah.

The human-caused fire was 60 percent contained Saturday evening, BLM spokesman Don Carpenter said, and had burned no homes after breaking out Friday.

While the fire was burning roughly eight miles from the communities of Lynndyl and Leamington, it posed no threat to them at this time, he said.


— In Colorado, hot, dry weather and gusty winds are fueling two new wildfires, prompting evacuations in some of the most scenic tourist areas in the state. A 600-acre wildfire reported west of Colorado Springs on Saturday afternoon prompted an evacuation of the gated community of Cedar Heights and the Garden of the Gods nature center. Meanwhile, a fire involving structures erupted Saturday afternoon near the tourist town of Estes Park and the Beaver Meadows entrance on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. And firefighters gave up some ground to a wildfire that has scorched more than 118 square miles and destroyed at least 191 homes west of Fort Collins. Crews stationed near threatened homes Friday had to retreat for their safety, and the fire's containment slipped from 60 percent to 45 percent.

— In Nevada, a wildfire that has scorched more than 11,000 acres of rugged terrain in northeast Nevada near the Utah line is 75 percent contained. It began as a U.S. Forest Service prescribed burn that escaped June 9.

— In New Mexico, a lightning-caused wildfire that destroyed 242 homes and businesses is 90 percent contained after crews got a break in the weather. Crews took advantage of heavy rain Friday to increase containment lines on the 69-square-mile fire near Ruidoso that began June 4. Meanwhile, the more than 464-square-mile Whitewater-Baldy blaze, the largest in state history, is 87 percent contained. It began May 16 as two lightning-caused blazes that merged to form one fire.