10-alarm fire forces Herriman residents from homes again

3 homes destroyed, 2 damaged, many structures burned in Rose Crest Fire

Published: Friday, June 29 2012 4:00 p.m. MDT

Fire engulfs homes in the Rose Canyon area of Herriman, Friday afternoon, June 29, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

For details and real-time updates on this and other fires in Utah turn to Fire Watch Utah.

HERRIMAN — A fast-moving 10-alarm fire destroyed three homes and damaged two others — in addition to multiple other structures including garages and barns — Friday, prompting officials to issue a mandatory evacuation.

While officials of the Rose Crest Fire said their hearts went out to the families who lost homes and property, the results could have been much worse.

"I thought we were going to lose upwards to 100 (homes) or so," said Unified Fire Chief Michael Jensen.

The fire, which began about 3:30 p.m., had grown to 350 acres in less than five hours, fire officials said. The burned acres were mostly along the ridgeline.

This is the second time within two years that Herriman residents have been forced from their homes by fire. Utah National Guardsmen were doing a routine machine gun training exercise at Camp Williams Sept. 19, 2010, when wind turned a small grass fire into an inferno that climbed over a hill into the residential area that borders the camp to the north.

The fire ultimately consumed more than 4,300 acres, destroyed three homes and damaged many others. More than 1,600 residents were evacuated during that blaze.

The big difference between that fire and Friday's Rose Crest Fire is that officials knew in 2010 that the fire was coming heading their way over the mountain.

"This happened right in the middle of a developed area," Jensen said.

"It's not the size of the fire, it's the location," added Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.

Herbert praised the work of firefighters Friday night, calling their work to save homes a "significantly remarkable effort."

"I'm just in awe of the good work they've done," he said. "We've got the best in the business here fighting fires."

Cause of fire

Officials believe the fire, which is being called accidental, started after someone parked their hot car in an area of tall, dry grass. That car owner's house was not one of the three destroyed, however, Jensen said.

"Car parked over dry grass plus hot muffler equals Rose Crest Fire," Herriman City Councilman Mike Day said in a tweet Friday night.

An emotional Carrie Choquette confirmed that she saw the fire begin across the street from her house, next to a vehicle.

“It was just about maybe waist high, and it wasn't even very big and I saw the fire and the flames and I'm like, 'Oh, no! That's a fire! I got to get the kids.' I saw it was really close — it was just right up the street from us.

"And then when I came back out to the porch, the two trees next to it were just in flames and the next thing I knew, all the stuff right in front of me was all on fire and it was going toward my neighbors' houses.

"It was just so fast! It just went, 'Whoosh, like that, in minutes! I got out without shoes on, just the clothes on my back."

Choquette said she and eight children, including relatives she was baby-sitting, all quickly got out of the house and left the area.

“You don't have to be told to go when you can feel the flames while you're standing on your front porch.  You can feel the heat from the flames. You don't say, ‘Hey, do I need to go? You get out!”

Choquette, who was at the evacuation area at Herriman High School, didn't know whether her house was still standing.

“We do not know, but it was heading east, so hopefully it didn't go west,” she said.

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