HERRIMAN, Utah – The commander of the Utah Army National Guard took responsibility Monday for a fast-moving wildfire that led to the evacuation of 1,600 homes, saying Guard officials erred when they allowed live-fire training despite high wind warnings.
Gen. Brian Tarbet said he was “deeply sorry” about what he called a “systematic failure” at Camp Williams, about 30 miles south of Salt Lake City. The flames also destroyed three houses and damaged a fourth.
“Our mission is to support our citizens, not to endanger them, and we failed in that yesterday,” Tarbet said.
Tarbet said no one checked to see if the National Weather Service had posted a “red flag” high-wind warning before permitting the machine gun exercise to proceed in tinder-dry conditions. He also said guard commanders waited two hours to call outside fire agencies for help.
The blaze was 20 percent contained by Monday evening, fire spokeswoman Kim Osborn said.
The flames were ignited Sunday by practice rounds from a .50-caliber machine gun.