Nearly 9,000 residents evacuate neighborhoods near Saratoga Springs fire

'Dump Fire' quadrupled in size Friday to over 4,100 acres

Published: Friday, June 22 2012 9:37 p.m. MDT

Residents park to watch the fire as it continues to burn near Saratoga Springs Friday, June 22, 2012 after sunset.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Evacuated residents of Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain are anxious to go home. But no one was sure when that may happen.

“If you have been evacuated from your home, you will not be going home tonight,” Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy told families Friday night. “We can’t control any facet of (the fire) due to the wind."

The frustrating news was delivered as part of a tense day for residents of the two communities as a wildfire burned dangerously close to several neighborhood subdivisions, forcing between 8,000 and 9,000 residents to flee their homes.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love estimated that 1,500 homes had been evacuated, with some residents under a mandatory evacuation order and others leaving voluntarily. Other estimates were a bit lower.

"Absolutely the No. 1 issue is the safety of the residents," she said.

No structures had burned as of Friday evening. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said he believed all properties would be protected and hoped residents could be back in their homes by Saturday evening.

"I don't know of any homes in imminent danger," he said.

But the fire has been unpredictable. And Herbert said he was unsure if there would be any residual power problems in the area because several power lines have burned.

Dubbed the Dump Fire because it started near the city landfill, it quadrupled in size Friday to more than 4,100 acres, prompting officials to call for mandatory evacuations as strong winds pushed the blaze within half a mile of some houses.

The winds averaged about 20 mph most of the day in Saratoga Springs with gusts up to 30 mph. The fire was 30 percent contained by late Friday, despite the erratic winds pushing the flames past fire breaks, said Jason Curry of the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Land.

"These winds are a major challenge," he said.

"This is a tough fire to fight," Herbert added. "The wind is really causing havoc. It's jumping roads, 25- to 30-foot gaps."

While Herbert noted that everything that could be done was being done to fight the fire, he said: "It's going to take a significant effort to get it contained."

More than 120 firefighters were battling the blaze and an additional 40 were expected to join the efforts Saturday. Four helicopters, an air tanker and numerous fire engines were assisting. An additional air tanker was scheduled to arrive Saturday, which would greatly help efforts, Curry said.

Thousands evacuated

The evacuation areas included the neighborhoods north of Stillwater Drive and west of Redwood Road. Mandatory evacuations were originally ordered for Kiowa Valley, Eagle Top, Fremont Springs, Silver Lake and Jacob's Ranch subdivisions.

Christian Judd awoke to officials knocking on his door and telling him to evacuate.

"My immediate reaction was: 'So what do I do?' I don't even know. I've never been in this experience before," Judd said. "I just didn't imagine this would happen to us here."

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