Utah blaze sparked at firing range burns 300 acres, 2 homes SW of Salt Lake City

Monday, September 20, 2010

Utah blaze sparked at firing range burns 2 homes

HERRIMAN, Utah — A Utah blaze sparked at a machine gun firing range prompted some 1,260 evacuations Sunday as flames spread across hundreds of acres southwest and burned two homes, fire officials said.

With the fast-moving wildfire moving in on the town of Herriman, Mayor Josh Mills signed a declaration of State of Emergency. All Salt Lake County residents were asked not to use their cell phones to keep lines open for emergency communications, and volunteers worked to evacuate animals from the area, which has a high horse population.

“We can see the flames at the top of the hill,” Faith Ching, owner of Ching Animal Farm and Rescue, told the Deseret News just before the fire reached some of the houses. “I don’t want to take a chance. It’s really scary.”

Captain Brad Taylor of the Unified County Authority confirmed with The Associated Press that two Herriman-area homes had caught fire. The blaze has burned more than 300 acres.

Salt Lake County sheriff’s Lt. Don Hutson, who helped with evacuations and saw some homes catch fire, called the situation “chaos.”

The fire began around noon Sunday at a firing range at Camp Williams, a sprawling National Guard site about 30 miles outside Salt Lake City, Taylor said.

Several hours later, crews with the Unified Fire Authority crews were enlisted to help battle the blaze as it spread into Salt Lake County. The first round of mandatory evacuations, which included 262 homes, were ordered at 7 p.m., Taylor said. Later, another 1,000 homes were ordered evacuated, he said.

“It’s moving rapidly,” he said late Sunday. “We’re going to keep our crews on this. We’re going to keep our eyes obviously on the homes, and call additional crews out.”

Utah National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Hank McIntire told the Salt Lake Tribune that dry brush had caught fire during an artillery training session at Camp Williams, and soldiers did not have the manpower or equipment to stop it from rapidly spreading.

“They knew immediately and they got on it right away,” he told the newspaper.

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