Dozens of homes, structures consumed by massive Wood Hollow Fire

Sad owners assess what to do next while others wait to learn of their property's fate

Published: Monday, June 25 2012 10:00 a.m. MDT

The Dave and Janice Taylor home in Indian Ridge, west of Indianola, Sunday, June 24, 2012

Spencer Cox,

Related: Utah wildfires: By the numbers

MORONI, Sanpete County — Since 2001, Jerry and Erma Buys have gone to their cabin frequently to spend relaxing summer days and evenings.

"It was just heaven on earth for us," Erma Buys said of their home in the Indian Ridge, a subdivision west of Indianola.

The Buys live in Payson, but there was always someone from the family at the cabin year-round, she said. It sat on a mountain top with a "gorgeous view."

Now, all of that is gone.

"Our cabin burned to the ground," Erma Buys said Monday. "Our hearts are broken."

Theirs was one of dozens of homes and structures consumed by the massive wildfire that continued to spread Monday to nearly 39,000 acres.

Firefighters are also battling four other wildfires in Utah, although three were declared to be contained on Monday.

The newest fire, dubbed the Church Camp Fire, started about 6 p.m. Sunday and spread to 1,000 acres on Monday, prompting the evacuation of hundreds of residents in Duchesne County. Named for an LDS Church camp in the area, the fire is located in Argyle Canyon between Duchesne and Helper.

As of Monday evening, the fire was threatening 83 structures and all residences in the canyon had been evacuated, said public information officer Louis Haynes. A number of structures had been consumed in the fire, but Haynes said it was too early to determine how many were homes.

As many as 100 firefighters were battling the blaze with the help of air tankers, fire engines and a bulldozer, but had not yet contained any of the fire, which is believed to be human-caused.

As crews battled the massive Wood Hollow Fire in Sanpete County outside of Fairview, residents of the evacuated communities tried to get any information they could about the fate of their homes. Many gathered off of Highway 89 Monday, just outside the evacuation zone, to watch columns of smoke still rising from their communities and helicopters coming and going all day dumping water on the fire.

Some hugged and consoled each other as they watched helplessly, using binoculars and telescopes from their cars to try and get closer views of their burned community.

Justin Sanderson said there were about 30 homes in his neighborhood of Oaker Hills. The Sanpete County Sheriff's Office reported 14 homes and 50 structures there had burned to the ground.

For Sanderson, the fire hit and missed trailers, sheds and other structures on his property.

"I can see my property from here and I know everything is burnt, but the main dwelling is still standing, I don't know what damage is done to it. But everything else is gone, all the other structures — another cabin was there, my tractors and everything like that."

Sanderson lives in Spanish Fork, but spent much of his time in Oaker Hills.

"It's looking OK right now," he said of his house as he watched the fire from across the highway. "I don't know if it's out of the woods or not."

If his cabin does burn, Sanderson said he'll rebuild.

Firefighters in Sanpete County had hoped to reach 20 percent containment of the Wood Hollow Fire by late Monday. Mandatory evacuation orders remained in place, although officials acknowledged that not all residents left their homes. More than 200 homes were evacuated Sunday, including the subdivisions of Oaker Hills, Elk Ridge, Indian Ridge, Panorama, Big Hollow and Hideaway Valley — areas that were a mixture of summer cabins, primary residences and horse and livestock properties.

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