SALT LAKE CITY – Firefighters were bracing for strong winds Monday as they fought a southern Utah wildfire that’s forced more than 1,500 people from homes and cabins as crews in California got a handle on a brush fire that closed a freeway.
Authorities ordered more evacuations at the fire that has torched more than 67 square miles in preparation for winds and low humidity that could push fire growth north after calmer weather kept its growth in check over the weekend.
The blaze sparked June 17 by someone using a torch tool to burn weeds has grown to become the largest wildfire in the country and firefighting costs now top $7 million, state emergency managers said. The fire in the near the ski town of Brian Head, generally known for weekend getaway homes for Las Vegas residents, is about 10 percent contained.
About 175 people were briefly allowed back to their homes near Panguitch Lake Sunday under escort, said Denise Dastrup with the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office. Monday’s new evacuations are in the Upper Bear Valley.
Crews in California, meanwhile, allowed people back to about 100 canyon homes near Santa Clarita as traffic began moving again on a Los Angeles County freeway.
It closed after a weekend car crash sparked a smoky fire that ripped through dry brush amid stifling heat. One structure was destroyed and a television news van had major burn damage.
That blaze consumed nearly 1.4 square miles of brush and closed State Route 14 before crews halted its advance.
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