Heat, winds spark several fires throughout Utah

Published: Saturday, June 23 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

Fire responders work on a wild land fire near homes the Jordan River in Murray Saturday, June 23, 2012.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Many fires across Utah threatened homes and kept response crews extremely busy Saturday as weather conditions contributed to fast-spreading blazes.

Evacuations were ordered in Utah County, Sanpete County and Washington County because of threatening wildfires. Fire also destroyed two homes in West Jordan.

The weekend's hot, dry and windy weather made for "explosive" fire conditions, said KSL meteorologist Lynae Miyer. She also warned of a possibility of lightning storms Sunday and Monday that could contribute to more fires before wet weather arrives later in the week.

"It looks like heading into Tuesday we'll start to get a break," she said.

New fires were seemingly reported every hour Saturday, including the following:

• The wind and heat quickly turned a grass fire into two house fires. Both homes were destroyed after a tree fell on a power line, which sparked a fire in a field behind the homes at 2305 W. 7095 South in West Jordan. The 3 p.m. fire soon turned into a three-alarm blaze.

"We had everything just right — heat, low humidity and then the south wind. On a calm day, this would have been a pretty routine fire to put out — a field fire in the back," said  West Jordan Fire Chief Marc McElreath.

Instead, two homes were burned and a third home suffered significant smoke damage in addition to fire damage to a fence and gazebo. Damage was estimated at $400,000. One firefighter also suffered heat exhaustion while battling the blaze.

No one was home at either house when the fire broke out. One family quickly returned home after friends called to tell them the bad news. A tearful Taylor Conder said it was frightening to come home and see her house ablaze.

"Last summer, part of my grandfather's home burned down and to see it happen to my house is so scary," the emotional 15-year-old said. "They lost their dog in it, too, and it scares me even more. I never thought in a million years this would happen to me."

Neighbors were able to rescue two of the family's three dogs from the fire. Taylor hopes the other dog, a small Shih Tzu rat terrier mix, ran away.

• A day after being evacuated because of an unpredictable wildfire, Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain residents were allowed to return to their homes Saturday evening. Officials warned there would still be Red Flag warning conditions and smoke and ash may still linger through the neighborhoods for a couple of days. The fire grew to more than 6,000 acres Saturday but no homes were burned.

• A field fire near 12100 South and 1000 East in Draper damaged one home and threatened two others. The fire began at approximately 12:20 p.m. and burned through 150 feet of wooden fencing before it was contained 25 minutes later, Unified Fire Capt. Lee Ascarte said.

The fire caused $35,000 in damage, including light damage to a garage and vehicle at one of the homes, he said. The cause of the fire was still being investigated but Ascarte said it was deemed suspicious and possibly human-caused.

• Residents of Leeds, Washington County, were evacuated after a brush fire that began near exit 22 on I-15 spread. Officials said an outbuilding was destroyed and several structures were threatened.

The American Red Cross reported that approximately 40 people had been evacuated. A reception center was opened at an LDS meetinghouse at Main Street and Cherry Lane to accommodate residents.

Washington County officials reported that at least five homes in Leeds would have burned, but were spared because owners had created good defensive spaces.

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