Firefighters make gains on blaze; some evacuations lifted
Herriman • As expected, winds increased Tuesday, flaring up some hot spots on the hillside, but by the end of the night, fire officials were please with how the fire-fighting efforts played out.
"We've got really good news," said Scott Bushman, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.
The strong winds mostly reignited flames in the interior of the burned area, allowing firefighters to get the blaze about 50 percent contained, Bushman said.
"We were planning for the worst, had our resources in place and things went really, really well," he said. "It just didn't get up and run like we worried about."
Officials estimate the fire has burned about 4,351 acres.
Tuesday's gains against the blaze led to a lifting of some of the evacuations, said Unified Fire Authority Chief Michael Jensen.
On the fire's east flank, people were being allowed to return to their homes in the Blackridge area, Jensen said.
On the west flank of the fire, people were allowed back into their homes up to the intersection of Rose Canyon Road and Mountain Top Drive. People who lived up Rose Canyon Road beyond that intersection were not allowed to stay in their homes Tuesday night, Jensen said. They were, however, provided an escort by Unified Police Department personnel to their homes, where they were allowed to retrieve essential items and then leave the homes for the night, said UPD spokesman Don Hutson.
The fire, which started Sunday during a live-fire training exercise at Camp Williams, ultimately destroyed three homes, said Bureau of Land Management spokesman Marshall Thompson.
An additional seven hand crews arrived overnight, bringing the total to 400 people working the fire, not including 120 National Guardsmen fighting the blaze on the Camp Williams side as well as running bulldozers in Herriman.
There are 35 fire engines, three air tankers, two small air tankers, four Black Hawk helicopters and several bulldozers still on scene.
Jensen said fire-fighting operations were not being scaled back as a result of Tuesday's gains.
More winds were forecast for Wednesday, and fire officials were preparing for possible flare-ups.
"We still have a potential for some problems," Jensen said.
But he said he hoped fire officials would be able to lift more evacuation orders sometime Wednesday.
A lot of the remaining fire is in drainage areas that can't be seen from the valley, and Jensen said there is enough dry fuel and ground fuel left that the fire could return to areas that have already burned.
He said the changing weather will make conditions more comparable to Sunday, when the high wind fanned the flames faster and farther than containment crews could handle.
Jensen likened the situation to a smoldering campfire, saying just a little air blown on dying embers can reignite the fire.
Meanwhile, those returning to their homes are surveying the aftermath of the fire.
On Monday, Utah's National Guard commander Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet said the Guard planned to take financial responsibility for the fire.
Lt. Col. Hank McIntire on Tuesday, though, urged residents with private insurance to file claims though those companies first. Those seeking assistance through the Guard can call 801-432-4980 or 1-877-901-4980, McIntire said.
The American Red Cross shelter originally set up at Herriman High moved Monday night to an LDS wardhouse, then again to Herriman City Hall, 13011 S. Pioneer St. (6000 West), on Tuesday afternoon.
Utahns may want to beef up their own emergency plans after watching Herriman residents flee the Machine Gun fire.
On Friday, George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center will hold its fourth-annual emergency preparedness open house, with vendors selling food storage, home emergency supplies and equipment.
The fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Emergency Management Training Center, Building 18, at the medical center, 500 Foothill Drive, Salt Lake City.
Firefighting needs met elsewhere
Unified Fire Authority spokesman Brad Taylor said Tuesday that cities in Salt Lake County covered by the UFA weren't without fire services while most crews fought the Machine Gun fire.
He said that no other major incidents had occurred except for a house fire in Riverton that was quickly extinguished and that there was plenty of coverage for the rest of the county. The Machine Gun fire was "not affecting the resources that we have to protect our cities," he said.