SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly 200 homes in a high-end neighborhood nestled in the foothills near a northern Utah canyon remained under evacuation orders Wednesday as fire crews battled a wind-fueled blaze that burned three houses and at least two other structures a day earlier.
The 1-square-mile (2.5-square-kilometer) fire was about 5 percent contained by Wednesday after winds calmed overnight, allowing firefighters to stop the blaze from spreading toward more homes in the city of Ogden, said Rachelle Handley of the U.S. Forest Service.
Most of the nearly 1,000 people evacuated Tuesday were allowed to return home. But 186 homes remain under evacuation orders because the fire could kick up Wednesday afternoon with hot and windier conditions in the forecast, Handley said. Two highways that were closed have reopened, and two schools that were evacuated Tuesday are back in session.
Mark Archer said he and his wife received texts about the mandatory evacuation Tuesday morning and drove home from their perspective jobs in a panic because they had left their 18-year-old son sleeping. They soon realized he had already left because of the heavy smoke and focused on grabbing the “important stuff” as smoke alarms went off: Their cat and dog and important documents.
He could see the flames from his house as heavy smoke engulfed the neighborhood, Archer said. His lungs and eyes were stinging Wednesday from the smoke inhalation, he said.
They were back into their house Tuesday evening and found a home that smelled like a campfire from all the smoke. Warned by authorities that high winds could trigger another evacuation, Archer and his family had bags packed and ready to go. He set his alarm to wake himself up every two hours to look out the window.
“It’s still scary to go home in case it picks up with high winds,” said Archer, 56, whose home is about 3 miles west of the burned homes. “All I can do is just hope and pray.”
Signs point to the blaze being human-caused because there was no lighting in the area, but investigators still haven’t pinpointed what ignited the fire, said Kim Osborn of the U.S. Forest Service.