August 15, 2013 in Nation/World

Winds help push Utah wildfire

Dozen homes destroyed, hundreds threatened
Michelle L. Price Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Blackened landscape surrounds the ashes of one of the homes destroyed by wildfire in an aerial view Wednesday near Rockport, Utah.
(Full-size photo)

WANSHIP, Utah – A wildfire threatened hundreds of homes Wednesday after destroying more than a dozen others outside the resort town of Park City.

The lightning-sparked blaze was among several in the West where fires have devoured dry grass and brush and burned to the edges of small communities.

Shifting winds in Utah pushed the fire toward homes in a subdivision about 10 miles outside Park City. It destroyed a dozen homes on Tuesday, plus another home overnight. Fire officials say it also burned 20 outbuildings and several vehicles and boats.

The fire began near a populated area and had grown to 2,000 acres, or nearly 3 square miles, by Wednesday evening. About 250 homes northeast of Park City remain threatened, including some along a golf course in the gated community of Promontory.

Residents who hoped to return home Wednesday night aren’t likely to be allowed back in until today at the earliest, said Utah fire official Mike Eriksson. Some were allowed to pick up pets and medication early Wednesday.

Steady winds and rising temperatures stoked the fire Wednesday afternoon, sending large clouds of brownish-black smoke into the sky. The fire was still only about 25 percent contained, said Utah fire official Mike Eriksson.

“The winds haven’t been helping out with this fire,” Eriksson said. “It’s definitely growing.”

The lightning strike that ignited the blaze Tuesday shook Kim Alderman’s convenience store, and flames were visible within a few minutes. The fire then spread into the gated communities of Rockport Ranches and Rockport Estates, mostly middle-class homes used as primary residences, said Alderman, owner of the Rafter B Gas N’ Grub in Wanship.

Several helicopters and one large DC-10 tanker plane worked the fire Wednesday, dropping fire retardant. More than 100 people were assigned to help fight the fire.

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