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Evacuated residents of Saratoga Springs fire return home, but warned to be on alert if conditions change

Published: Saturday, June 23 2012 6:49 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 — Anxious residents were told they could finally return to their homes Saturday evening as air and ground crews continue battling the Dump Fire Saturday.

Hot shot crews worked through the night trying to contain the wildfire, which grew from 4,100 acres Friday night to 6,023 acres Saturday afternoon.

"We made good progress last night," said fire public information officer Kim Osborn, with the U.S. Forest Service. "Crews were up all night."

At 5 p.m., Saratoga Springs officials announced they would allow residents to return home but warned them to be packed and prepared should another evacuation order be issued because of the unpredictable fire.

Srong winds pushed the fire west overnight — something officials weren't expecting. Two additional homes along Lake Mountain Road in Eagle Mountain were evacuated overnight as a precaution, Osborn said.

Fire officials indicated the fire was about 30 percent contained. But they reconfigured the official number of homes evacuated and believe less than 600 homes were evacuated, including about 400 in Saratoga Springs and 200 in Eagle Mountain. Some reports on Friday put the number at 1,500.

But from the fire command center and from Westlake High School, 99 N. 200 West, where the Red Cross set up an emergency shelter for those who were displaced, residents noticed a drastic improvement from Friday. There was blue sky over the evacuated area Saturday morning, as opposed to Friday when ash and smoke blocked out the sun.

Most evacuated residents spent the night with friends and family. Only 13 people slept overnight at the high school, according to the Red Cross. But Saturday morning, many residents returned the shelter, hoping to hear information about when they could return to their homes.

"They said they won't know really anything until this afternoon," said Dennis Peterson, whose home was one of the first evacuated about 10:30 a.m. Friday. He and his wife spent the night with family members in Highland.

"Yesterday there was a whole bunch of smoke and I could see why they'd kick you out. But today the smoke is gone. I don't know why they're holding us out. But I'm sure they're doing it for safety," he said.

Officials pounded on the Petersons' door Friday and told them there was a mandatory evacuation. They grabbed their 72-hour kits, a few clothes and personal items and were gone in 15 minutes.

"(The fire) was pretty close, it was very smoky when we left. So we knew we needed to get out," Nancy Peterson said. "We're good (today). We're going to be alright.

"We can see our house area from where we're at, and everything looks good."

Inside the high school, the Red Cross also set up a fire information area for residents, including maps, to show them the area that was evacuated, where the fire was burning and how much of the fire was contained.

"We're very anxious to get back (home). But we just talked to them in there and they said they're worried about the wind shifting later this morning so they're not ready to let people back in yet," said Kevin Sater, who was evacuated from his Saratoga Hills home and spent the night in a hotel in Provo.

Sater said police came to his home about 10:30 a.m. Friday and told him and his wife they had to leave.

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