Grateful residents of Saratoga Springs return home as fire continues to burn

Published: Saturday, June 23 2012 9:07 p.m. MDT

Fire responders work on wild land fire near Saratoga Springs Saturday, June 23, 2012.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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SARATOGA SPRINGS — At the corner of Stetson Avenue and Clydesdale Road in Saratoga Springs, residents returning to their homes Saturday evening for the first time in a day and a half used words like "crazy" and "insane."

And "grateful."

Those reactions were expressed as they saw the charred landscape and realized just how dangerously close the fire came to their homes. The Dump Fire, as it was called, came within 20 feet of three homes under construction, and between 20 and 50 yards of homes that were occupied.

Late Saturday afternoon, all evacuation orders for Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain that had been implemented Friday because of the fast-moving wildfire were lifted. Although the fire danger has passed, officials warned there would still be Red Flag warning conditions for the next several days and smoke and ash may still linger through the neighborhoods for a while.

As residents started returning to their homes, many couldn't believe what they saw.

"It's scary. I'm grateful, though, for all the hard work the firemen did," said Marji McAdams, who was one of the first to be evacuated from the Saratoga Hills subdivision.

"It looks like a barren, black landscape — like something out of a science fiction movie," added resident Kent Langston as he overlooked the burned area.

Firefighters protected all houses in the area, and despite the reported loss of more than two dozen power poles, city officials said all residents should have had power when they returned home.

Residents expressed their approval when Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love and Eagle Mountain Mayor Heather Jackson announced about 5 p.m. that the mandatory evacuation had been lifted.

"At this point, everyone is able to go home," Love said.

Fire, local government officials and police all met earlier to decide whether it was safe to let the families return to their homes.

"We certainly didn't want to let people go home and then a few hours later say, 'I'm sorry you have to leave your home again.' There's a very good chance you won't have to do that again," Love said.

But Jackson also warned residents to keep their guard up for a few days.

"You need to be prepared and still be on alert. So please don't go unpacking everything and get snuggled in per se," she said.

Jason Curry with the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Land said crews worked the north border of the fire — the area where all the homes are — all day Saturday and were confident Saturday evening that homeowners were out of danger.

But while the fire danger had passed, the health risks from smoke and ash remained. Evacuated residents gathered at Westlake High School were warned not to exercise outdoors for a few days.

"I'm worried about the smoke, especially worried about smoke damage or if it filtered throughout the house, so we'll go check it out," Tricia Roberts said just before entering her home in the Saratoga Hills neighborhood.

A thick haze and strong winds still hovered over most of the formerly evacuated areas Saturday afternoon.

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