Quail Fire burns in hills above Alpine, evacuations ordered

Published: Tuesday, July 3 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

Jody Lopez and her daughter Rebeca watch the fire as crews work to stop the Quail Fire burning in Alpine Tuesday, July 3, 2012.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

Read more: Utah County couple provide eyewitness account to early stages of Tuesday's

Read more: Fire Watch: Track the latest wildfire developments and view photos from fires statewide

Related: Mandatory evacuation map

ALPINE — A fast-moving fire threatened homes in Alpine Tuesday, destroying a large barn and prompting officials to evacuate about 80 homes.

The fire also caused heat damage to a couple of homes and came frighteningly close to several others.

The fire, dubbed the Quail Fire, erupted near Lambert Park outside of Box Elder Canyon and moved northeast into that canyon, away from most nearby houses and structures. Smoke could be seen rising above the mountain in Draper and in southern Utah County Tuesday afternoon.

As of 10 p.m., the fire had burned around 5,000 acres. None of it had been contained, but firefighters were making progress, said Forest Service spokeswoman Loyal Clark.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered for all subdivisions and residences on Grove Drive north of Alpine Boulevard and everything east of Alpine Boulevard from Grove Drive to Round Mountain Drive. That includes the Alpine Cove and Box Elder subdivisions. A total of 80 homes were evacuated and those residents were directed to gather at Timberline Middle School, where the Red Cross set up a makeshift shelter.

"It's on flashy fuels so it's actively running," Cami Lee with the Bureau of Land Management said of the fire. "Our concern is that as the evening comes, the winds could shift and push the fire back down the mountain."

American Fork Canyon was also closed and deputies combed the canyon, evacuating campers and residents of cabins and summer homes in the Tibble Fork Reservoir area.

Sheriff's deputies searched for a family group of 32 people who in the canyon, but they were eventually located and escorted out of the canyon.

Flames 20 feet or higher were seen racing up in the canyon and up the mountainside Tuesday afternoon.

"It's really moved really fast, faster than I would have expected," said Reid Shelley with the U.S. Forest Service. "Even without the wind and the steep slope, it's moved faster. I mean, it's just extreme fire behavior."

Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon said the fire, which was burning in an area near the popular Dry Creek Trail, may have been human-caused.

“The information that came in initially is that it was caused by a track hoe, an individual working on a track hoe area," he said. I don’t know if there were sparks or … just the heat of the machinery itself.”

Cannon said the fire grew quickly.

“It was reported initially at about 100 feet, 200 feet and within an hour it had topped the first ridges,” he said.

“We've been fortunate so far that only one outbuilding (a barn) has sustained some damage. But to this point, anyways, no homes have been damaged, although there have been a lot of threats to homes,” Cannon said. "This particular area there's a lot of very heavy underbrush, a lot of scrub oaks that causes significant concern, especially for the homes that have that kind of growth near them.

"In getting people out, you can't get them out quick enough. And the people in this area have been through this experience in the past, and so they don't hesitate very much at all when someone knocks on their door and says we need you to leave,” he said.

Two Blackhawk helicopters from the Utah National Guard, two heavy air tankers, one small air tanker, four helicopters and several engines from the forest service and surrounding communities were assisting in the firefighting efforts.

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