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Residents return to Herriman to find near misses and complete devastation

Published: Saturday, June 30 2012 9:14 p.m. MDT

Darryl Hazelgren looks at the destruction of his property from the Rose Crest Fire in Herriman on Saturday, June 30, 2012.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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

Related: Firework restrictions throughout Utah.

Related: Utah wildfires by the number.

HERRIMAN — Steve Barker surveyed his property for the first time Saturday evening after an evacuation order was lifted and said he was "blown away" by what he saw.

The fields surrounding Barker's home are blackened. His neighbor's house less than 100 yards away is gone.  Another neighbor up the hill, about 500 yards away also does not have a house anymore.

Saturday evening, residents of Herriman were allowed to return to their homes to discover how indiscriminately the intense fire burned. Some returned to their homes as they left them. Others found damage from fire and smoke that needed to be repaired.

And four families came home to nothing.

"I've lost everything," said an emotional Terri Bowen, who with her husband Steve Crain lived in the destroyed home near Barker's house. "I have nothing but the clothes on my back, my husband and my horses. I have nothing," she said, after returning to the scene Saturday to survey her losses.

She and her husband recently completed a 6-month remodel on their Rose Creek Lane home, one of the hundreds of stories playing out in the foothills of this southwest Salt Lake County community.

"It's pretty cruddy. I feel pretty bad for the guy," Barker said of his neighbor, balancing the elation of having his own home spared against the loss of others. He said his circular driveway probably saved his house from the blistering flames.

Fire officials revised the acreage on the Rose Crest Fire Saturday, downsizing it to 611 acres burned as of Saturday evening, with 60 percent containment as of evening.  Winds remained in check Saturday as fire officials felt confident enough to allow residents to return after 6 p.m. But fire crews continued to fight the fire through the night.

Of the four homes claimed in the fire, three were on Rose Creek Lane between 14700 South and 15000 South, the fourth on Majestic Oaks Lane. Police and fire officials escorted three of the four families to see their homes before the evacuation order was lifted for the rest of the area.

"They were very emotional," said Unified Fire Capt. Lee Ascarte. "Most of the families have lived here multiple years."

Many live on large pieces of property and lost outbuildings and sheds in addition to their homes. The fire was so intense that some families who used supposedly fire safety boxes to store personal items returned to find those boxes and items incinerated, Ascarte said.

The fourth family that lost a home was out of town and had not been contacted, he said.

At one home that was lost, a white Jeep sat in the driveway where its brick garage had collapsed. Cement stairs lead up to a blackened pile of soot and rubble with little else remaining.

"All they have is the clothes they left with," Barker said of his neighbors.

In addition to the four homes, multiple vehicles and structures were lost, including sheds, barns and at least one detached two-car garage. Ascarte said it would be a day or two before all of the damaged structures and homes could be counted.

At the top of Rose Creek Lane, three homes at the highest point on the mountainside all survived. But not unscathed. While the fronts of their homes looked normal, in the back, the landscape was painted by a tale of heroics as firefighters somehow prevented the entire structure from burning.

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