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Residents fleeing Parleys Canyon Fire take shelter at Park City High School

Most visited the shelter only briefly before going to stay with friends or relatives, officials said

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Crews fight the Parleys Canyon Fire on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021.

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The Parleys Canyon Fire, which sparked off Interstate 80 due to a faulty catalytic converter, forced the evacuation of around 8,000 people in the Summit Park, Pine Brook, Lambs Canyon and Upper Mill Creek Canyon areas.

Near Little Dell Reservoir on Emigration Canyon Road, onlookers, hikers and bikers watched as planes dropped water and fire retardant onto the nearby flames from the over 2,000-acre blaze, which at one point caused a shutdown of Interstate 80 in both directions.

[Read more: Parleys Canyon Fire is completely out of control as crews work to map the blaze]

“We were actually filling up my gas tank in Costco, and we looked straight ahead and saw this going on,” said Jarred Laws, who was on a bike ride on Emigration Canyon Road just before the fire started. “[Then we looked on the news and] Parleys Canyon was just like up in flames.”

Dermett Mchugh and Dana Tower were on their way to mountain bike on the pioneer trail and saw the smoke. They’d known about the fire already, and were worried about friends who had to evacuate from the area.

“They’re all packing up or already evacuated,” Mchugh said.

Tina Spencer, who is a shelter manager for the Red Cross, was on 1700 South in Holladay when she first saw the flames. She called organizers with the Red Cross and sent them pictures as the smoke grew.

With I-80 closed, Spencer and the other volunteers had to make the hour-long drive up Guardsman’s pass to establish a temporary shelter at Park City High School. They set up a makeshift cafeteria with chairs and tables in the school’s gymnasium where residents came and sat with their pets.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Two planes and helicopter work on the fire in Parleys Canyon, on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021.

Restaurants, including Domino’s Pizza and Deer Valley Resort, donated pizza and pulled pork sandwiches to the shelter. Those who couldn’t return to their homes sat at the tables and stared into their phones, awaiting updates on the status of their homes and looking for a place to stay the night.

“They’re trying to figure out what to do and how long it’s going to take before they can go home. They’re anxious. They’re scared,” Spencer said. “[People are] welcome to have their pets. That’s a comfort to them.”

By mid-evening, more than 30 people passed through the shelter to stock up on fresh fruit, Gatorade and other snacks donated by members of the community, Spencer said.

Most of those who came to the shelter only stopped in briefly before going to stay with friends or relatives, officials said. Spencer explained that if any displaced individuals or families have nowhere else to go, the Red Cross will put up cots in the gymnasium for people to stay the night.

“This is our first ever evacuation!” one man exclaimed to Red Cross volunteers, as he approached the gymnasium with his wife. He shared that his neighbors are on vacation and, before leaving for the shelter, he had to quickly run into their house to grab some of their most prized possessions.

Currently, over 2,100 people are being affected by the blaze, according to Jennifer Hansen with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. The progression of the wildfire “has slowed,” Hansen said, but there was still no containment at around 9 p.m., with a more accurate GPS acreage of the fire expected tomorrow.

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