Fire in the foothills above Layton burns away from homes; evacuations lifted

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A helicopter drops water on the Snoqualmie fire above the homes in the Layton foothills, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019.

A wildfire burning east of Layton grew overnight to about 117 acres, prompting the evacuation of 125 homes but threatening no structures. There have been no reports of injuries.

The Snoqualmie Fire was burning near the Fernwood neighborhood in the foothills above Highway 89 and Antelope Drive.

Officials had previously estimated the fire — which was first reported about 10 p.m. on Monday — grew to 250 acres, but lowered that figure after the sun rose and they were able to get a better look at it, according to U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Dana Harris. The cause of the fire is unknown.

All mandatory evacuation areas were opened by 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to Utah Fire Info.

Brian Magness and his parents were awakened sometime after midnight when fire officials rang the doorbell and told them they needed to evacuate. The family grabbed their two dogs — Winnie and Buddy — and stayed the night at the emergency shelter set up at the Mountain View Baptist Church, just west of Highway 89.

“I wasn’t really scared," Magness said, “until we got to the shelter and looked back up to mountain and saw the fire."

Magness said the family had been evacuated in 2005 for a brush fire, but that happened during the day and didn’t seem as startling.

Dave and Jackie Gilbreath, who live on Fernwood Drive, also heard the sirens coming into their neighborhood and knew something was wrong. “I grabbed a box with special pictures and our safe with documents,” said Jackie Gilbreath. "But I felt very lost. When it’s dark and all you can see are the flames it looks like everything is gone. "

After trying to get sleep in their car, the couple was relieved Tuesday morning to see that no structures had been damaged in the flames. “Even though they are all material things,” she said, “it’s everything you’ve built over 30 years and you don’t want it to end like that.”

Fire crews were able to establish a fire break close to the homes nearest the fire, and they got some help from the weather. Winds blew north and east, driving the flames away from the houses.

According to fire officials, a helicopter began battling the blaze after the sun rose Tuesday morning. Because it is a watershed area, it will drop water and not flame retardant on the fire.

Several drones were sighted in the area, and Layton City Fire officials are urging operators to leave to avoid interfering with the helicopters.

Officials originally opened two evacuation centers, but closed one at an LDS Church on Cherry Lane; a center at Mountain View Baptist Church at 2585 E. Highway 89 remained open on Tuesday morning.

Commuters were urged to avoid U.S. 89 in the area, and the park-and-ride lot at Antelope Drive and Highway 89 is closed; according to city officials, it will remain closed on Wednesday. Davis County schools are in session on Tuesday, although buses will not run in affected areas.

The Snoqualmie Fire is the second in four days to force Utahns from their homes. The Gun Range Fire, which began Friday in Bountiful and Centerville, destroyed three houses, damaged eight others and prompted the evacuation of 400 homes.

That fire — which is believed to have been started by an abandoned campfire — was fully contained on Sunday.