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Photo of damage from the Herriman fire taken June 29, 2012. Courtesy image.
Herriman fire: Evacuation ends, small miracles revealed
Wildfires » Much of Utah remains under warning for more fires.
First Published Jun 30 2012 08:00 am • Last Updated Oct 30 2012 11:31 pm

Herriman » A tour Saturday of the Rose Crest Fire’s aftermath revealed a sad and scorched landscape, but also glimpses of small miracles.

At one home on Majestic Oaks Lane with warped and melted siding, Unified Fire Authority Capt. Lee Ascarte pointed out a tree in its backyard that was touching the house plus tall golden weeds growing next to the foundation — both potential problems for defending against wildfire.

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At a glance

Online » Statewide fire restrictions

To learn what fireworks restrictions are in place where you live, see the state fire marshal’s website at http://t.co/TZcMTTyt

Fireworks restrictions were extended Friday to all unincorporated areas of Salt Lake County and county-owned parks and golf courses, which had been exempted from earlier restrictions. Fireworks already were banned in the foothills and canyons surrounding the valley above Wasatch Boulevard on the east bench and west of State Road 111 on the west bench.

Interior Secretary on 4th of July fire safety:

To further address the severity of current wildland fire activity across the western states, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack have directed federal land managers to take additional measures to help reduce the risks of new wildfires.

Building on existing federal and state policies designed to decrease the likelihood of accidental fires, the joint memorandum directs federal land managers to prohibit the personal use of fireworks on lands managed by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming until July 8, 2012.

These local managers will also enforce additional fire restrictions or public land closures as appropriate for the 4th of July holiday and heighten law enforcement and fire prevention patrols in critical areas to ensure that all applicable restrictions are enforced.

For more information on preventing wildfires, http://www.nifc.gov.”

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Fire crews still managed to stop the fire three feet from the home.

"If there wasn’t a fire engine here, this house would be a foundation," Ascarte said. "How our crew saved this building is nothing short of a miracle."

The Rose Crest Fire — which began Friday afternoon when a truck’s hot exhaust pipe touched dry grass — destroyed four homes and several other non-residential structures plus damaged several more homes.

It forced evacuation of some 950 homes until 6 p.m. Saturday.

During the fire scene tour, Ascarte told news reporters it is easier for firefighters to keep flames from a home if it is surrounded by 30 to 50 feet of xeriscaping or rock landscaping. Firefighters call such a buffer a "defensible space."

Ascarte showed reporters both good and bad examples of defensible space between homes and a yard.

The Cove of Herriman Springs subdivision was the greatest risk, Ascarte said, because of the dense cluster of expensive homes. Wind gusts of 20-30 mph fanned the fire Friday night, but no homes were damaged inside The Cove. The fire came right up to a vinyl fence bordering the subdivision, melting it like chocolate on a warm day.

Some homes outside of that subdivision weren’t as fortunate, some were spared, but had major damage to siding that looked like an overcooked marshmallow. Other areas were completely leveled with only a large pile of coals still smoldering. Antique cars and trucks were bare with former windshields looking like taffy. Metal strands hung from the sides of what used to be rubber tires.

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Elsewhere in Utah, triple-digit temperatures, unpredictable gusting and shifting winds and extreme drought-like conditions continued to make much of the state a tinder box on Saturday, but crews were guardedly optimistic they were beginning to gain the upper hand on the wildfires that had blackened more than 140,000 acres.

In Herriman, as of Saturday the Rose Crest Fire had burned an estimated 669 acres, said city spokeswoman Nicole Martin. "There was absolutely a rapid response from multiple [fire departments] from all over the Salt Lake Valley, and that helped get conditions under control as quickly as could be hoped. We are very grateful."

No serious injuries were reported.

The National Weather Service placed much of the southwest quarter of the state under a "Red Flag" wildfire danger warning this weekend. Open fires and fireworks were banned statewide on public lands ahead of the Independence Day holiday.

Gov. Gary Herbert sent a letter to religious leaders on Friday, asking for their prayers for residents and fire crews working to contain wildfires throughout the state. He asked for leaders and their congregation to pray for the elements to be moderated, the firefighters to be safe and the lives and homes of residents to be protected.

"We are in need of an extra measure of help as we battle these conflagrations," he wrote.

Elsewhere in Utah, seven other blazes were at varying levels of containment:

The Wood Hollow Fire » in Sanpete County had burned 47,295 acres and destroyed 160 structures, 52 of them homes. Though 65 percent contained as of Saturday afternoon, an army of 856 firefighters assigned to the blaze was focusing on the northern edge, which continued to be at risk of burning farther into neighboring Utah County.

"We had some minor growth overnight, but we are doing really good," Interagency Fire Center spokeswoman Dorothy Harvey said Saturday. "We have been able to release resources to be used elsewhere on other fires. We gave up three helicopters and kept four behind for now, but we’re expecting to reach full containment by midnight."

The Wood Hollow Fire has been blamed for the death of an Indianola area man whose body was found in a burned residential area earlier this week. Authorities still had not released his identity as of Saturday.

As of Saturday morning, all evacuations ordered earlier in the week had been lifted.

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