Editor’s Note: This story was last updated at 8:13 p.m. on Aug. 17. For the latest update on the Parleys Canyon Fire, click here.
Residents of Summit County can now return home four days after the Summit County Sheriff’s Office ordered them to evacuate due to the spread of the Parleys Canyon Fire.
The fire forced thousands of evacuations in Summit Park, Pinebrook, Timberline, Lambs Canyon and the upper Mill Creek Canyon areas. It has now burned 541 acres and is 40% contained as of Tuesday, officials say.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office lifted the evacuation order initially for residents of Lower Pinebrook on Monday. After a rainstorm passed through the Salt Lake Valley around 6 p.m. Tuesday, the sheriff’s office lifted evacuations for all of Summit County starting at 8 p.m. People living in Summit Park and Timberline were originally prevented from returning to their homes until at least Thursday at 8 p.m.
On Aug. 14, sparks from a faulty catalytic converter ignited the blaze on the south side of Interstate 80, resulting in mandatory evacuation orders for approximately 10,000 people. The fire threatened at least 6,000-8,000 structures in the mountains between Salt Lake and Summit counties, according to the Region 8 Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning Tuesday for northern and central Utah due to low humidity levels and the potential for lightning storms. These storms can produce erratic gusts of wind upwards of 35 mph that could cause wildfires to spread.
Crews at the Parleys Canyon Fire kept a close eye on the wind as they fought the fire today, but officials say that there was minimal change in the fire’s behavior over the past two days. It continues to burn through grass and brush at lower elevations and through heavy timber higher in the mountains, but the progress of the fire has “definitely slowed down,” said Parleys Canyon Fire Information Officer Nick Howell.
“Really, since the day the fire started, this is the first real test of any significant wind that the fire has had,” Howell said. “We’re definitely on a high level of alert and there’s a high level of urgency still in place.”
There were 216 firefighters at the scene combating the blaze. Crews dropped water from helicopters and cut containment lines into the vegetation to prevent the fire from spreading farther. Howell explained that crews used chainsaws to create a perimeter around the fire by chopping down the fuel that it needs to grow.
Many of the firefighters were at the site of the fire for the past four days, Howell said. They hiked far into the mountains, carrying 45 pounds of equipment on their backs through the steep and rocky terrain.
“We’re definitely seeing those stronger winds, but everything is still going well and the firefighters are still optimistic about their efforts so far,” Howell said.
Many of the evacuated residents have looked to friends and family for help. The Red Cross set up a shelter at Park City High School on Saturday. Park City Peaks Hotel offered a special $35 per night discount for anyone who was displaced.
The Park City School District was scheduled to start the school year on Thursday but elected to push the start back to Monday, Aug. 23, due to the fire.