Herriman • Mike White was standing in a 5-foot hole in his yard, working on his well, when the lightning hit.
Next thing he knew, he had been blown out of the hole, the hillside above his home was on fire and the retired school teacher was grateful he hadn't been electrocuted.
"I just feel thankful I wasn't holding onto that pipe" when the bolt hit, he said.
White's neighbor, Randy Nielsen, was outside his home when it struck. "It made the hair stand up on my head," he said.
Both men began fighting the flames with shovels but the heat became too intense. "I just dropped my shovel and come and got the horses," Nielsen said.
Although the lightning-caused fire immediately threatened at least nine homes Thursday and prompted a voluntary evacuation of 20, a quick response by fire crews kept damage to a minimum. The burn area ended up being less than 5 acres.
White, who lives at 16 Canyon Road, said his shed and dog kennel suffered fire damage and the juniper, pinyon and sage brush on his hillside are scorched. But by Thursday night, he was happy the fire's outcome wasn't worse.
"I feel great now. A lot of it is the euphoria knowing this isn't going to do any more damage," White said.
Nielsen, who resides at 17 Canyon Road, lost a shed full of tools, a generator, welder and two small motorcycles.
Still, he acknowledged, it could have been a lot worse. He thought he was going to lose everything, including his home.
The flames singed the exterior of his log cabin-style house, but it escaped structural damage.
And neighbors helped him move his horses, about 10 of them, out of harm's way.
Nielsen said he'll pursue insurance claims on his shed and the property inside, but "there's a lot of stuff in there I can't replace."
By about 5 p.m. just two hours after the blaze began residents of the Hi-Country Estates subdivision were being allowed to return to their homes.
As of 8 p.m., authorities said the fire was essentially out but firefighters were staying on scene through the night, just in case.
Unified Fire Authority Capt. Cliff Burningham said nine homes near Butterfield Canyon were threatened, but firefighters were able to save them by responding quickly.
A helicopter, ground crews and airplanes with flame retardant fought the blaze.
Officials said a brief rainstorm about 4 p.m. helped their efforts to control the flames.
While the fire was still burning, Camber Andrews who was prevented by officials from going to her home just a half-mile away watched the blaze while standing in the bed of her pickup truck.
"It doesn't look like it's in immediate danger," Andrews said of her home. "But if this [northerly] wind keeps up, it will be."
Another resident, Mark Johnston, said he was at work in Salt Lake City when he saw reports of the fire on television. He said he was not allowed back to his home, where he has two Great Danes.
"My house is uphill from where the fire is, but the wind and everything is in my favor," Johnston said.