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

Barlow was told that only three homes out of about a dozen in Indian Ridge were still standing Monday. Some of the houses were primary residences. Several neighbors, she said, were told to evacuate at midnight and escaped with only the clothing on their backs.

"We had to leave so many valuables in (the cabin) … just memories of our life together all went up in flames up there. We lost too much. We had to leave too much there," Erma Buys said.

The Buys said they had not been able to return yet to see the rubble. Jerry Buys has only been able to see the area from the roadside through binoculars.

A similar evacuation in 2007 led the family to pack up nearly everything then, but that fire was stopped before it reached their cabin, according to a son, Craig Buys.

"The only thing we pulled out (this time) was a 4-wheeler. Everything else is gone. Just lost everything," he said.

Dave and Debbie Bess also lost everything. The log cabin they had been living in for the past five years was their primary residence.

"We lost everything — except our lives, which is good," Debbie Bess said. "We didn't have enough time to get things." She said she was informed Monday afternoon that her home was still burning. "It was a nice little cabin. We loved it. I'm going to miss it."

Debbie Bess wasn't sure Monday what she and her husband will do next. But they will likely rebuild somewhere close, she said.

Barlow said despite all of the destruction, it's important to remember that nobody has been hurt.

"We lost stuff. We didn't lose any lives. Stuff can be replaced. But we can't live without our neighbors and friends," she said.

Sanderson said sheriff's deputies told them Saturday there was a voluntary evacuation, which turned into a mandatory evacuation by midnight. While his family got out, Sanderson waited until he could get his horses to safety and he gathered and few personal items that could not be replaced before leaving.

"I got my animal mounts, my one side-by-side, pictures … I didn't get the tractor," he said. "I'll definitely rebuild. If it's all gone, I'll definitely rebuild."

Terry Olson and his family have been spending every summer at their cabin in Oaker Hills for the past 33 years.

"My property is gone," he said as he watched from the highway. Despite his loss, Olson tried to remain in good spirits Monday.

"You gotta hand it to the firefighters, they've done one heck of a job with the conditions they have here," Olson said. "But, it was just a matter of time. This is nature's way of cleaning the country up. I wish it would it would have run around my cabin to do it."

The St. George resident said he likely will not rebuild. Instead, he plans to buy a trailer that he could drive to the property, and other places as well. His children might have other plans, perhaps to build there again in the future.

"But now it's nothing but a bunch of black soil," Olson said.

Nancy Gibbs and her husband have had a cabin in the area for the past five years.

"There's been so many people who have built in the past two years up there, big beautiful places. It's just sad," she said.

As the fire grew throughout the day, it was upgraded and additional support was called in. A Type 2 wildfire team took over command of the destructive fire early Monday, a step up from a Type 3 team.

"A Type 3 team is on the ground to fight the fire. That's their main goal is to try and put that fire out before it gets too big. Once it reaches more than what a Type 3 team can handle, then we bring in a Type 2 team that has the overhead to do the planning and the overhead and all that it entails to actually attack a fire," Harvey said.

The Type 2 incident management team was expected to bring in an additional 35 to 40 firefighters from around the West, including Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming and as far north as Canada. Three helicopters, one air tanker and bulldozers were also being used to fight the blaze.

Herbert, who surveyed the area from a helicopter Monday morning, said the fire looked better than he expected. But he noted that the wind was their biggest concern.

"This is going to be a tough year for fires," the governor said. "It's hot, it's dry."

U.S. 89 was closed for part of the day Sunday from Fairview to the Sanpete County line. The road was open Monday, but the sheriff's office asked residents to stay away to keep the roads clear for firefighters.

Contributing: Geoff Liesik and Julian Reyes

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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