Summit County couple stayed in evacuated area of fire to care for wildlife
110 homes remain off-limits until at least Monday because of Rockport Fire
"I would be concerned if I lived there. What I would do is have my children, if they slept in the basement, I would move them out of the basement today and I would have them sleeping upstairs," he said. "A lot of times what happens is debris comes down, it breaks the basement windows and floods the room and slams the door shut. ... The debris comes down, it's like cement trucks cutting loose and coming down the hillside at fast speed."
McInerney said it would take about a half-inch of rain in 30 minutes to create a potentially dangerous debris flow. While that doesn't happen often, he noted that of all the fires in Utah over the past two years, 80 percent of them have later had debris flows.
Fire officials also took members of the media on a tour of the fire-ravaged area Friday. An exact count of the number of vehicles, boats and campers destroyed isn't expected until Monday.
A field of black ground surrounded many homes — some within just a few feet of the residences. A big factor in homes that survived compared to those that didn't was defensible space previously created by homeowners.
"You see some houses ... that had absolutely no firefighter activity, burned all the way around it, yet the house is still standing because it had defensible space," said North Summit Fire Chief Ken Smith.
The dry sage and oak brush in the Rockport areas has made it a tough fire to fight, along with the changing weather, he said. "The winds have been absolutely unpredictable during this entire fire."
But Smith said his firefighters have been up to the challenge, so much so that he had to actually order some of them to get some sleep Friday.
"It's been hot, smoky. People, they are just worn out. Today I made some of my firefighters, as badly as they wanted to come up here, I made them stay home, because they're just drained. And we're still going to be here. This isn't over," he said.
Smith gave high praise to his firefighters, who he noted were all volunteers. He said additional volunteer firefighters, who had to work day jobs during the week, would be available this weekend.
Dave Miller is one of those volunteer firefighters working the Rockport areas. He had extra motivation this week because his house was one of those that were threatened.
"It got within about 4 feet of my deck. It burned my trampoline. There are some singed parts on my deck. So it got a little too close for comfort," he said.
"I love the job. It's a volunteer position, but I absolutely love it. And it's a way for me to be involved with my community and help out my neighbors," Miller said.
He added that the work of firefighters isn't over yet.
"There's still a huge potential (for fire). There's still a lot of area that can burn," he said.
A drive along Oak Haven Drive showed homes that sit high on the mountain ridge with blackened land nearby. A fire break created by bulldozers adjacent to the road helped keep the flames from reaching the homes. Residents in those houses overlook the Rockport Estates and Rockport Ranches subdivisions.
"This was the line where they wanted to make a stand here," said Mike Eriksson, northeast area manager of the State Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
Ron Cella has a large house at the top of Rockport Boulevard. Fire came within 6 feet on three sides of his home and within 18 inches of a shed. He had high praise for firefighters who have been working all week to save his home.
"We couldn't replace the memories. (The house) meant so much to us. It's a full house with everything, five bedrooms, furnished beautifully, TVs up and down. We can replace all that. Twelve years we've lived there since the Olympics. It means a lot to us and my family, my four children and 17 grandchildren. It's a very important place to us. It means a lot. I figured we'd go ahead and rebuild. We don't have to now," he said.
Likewise, the Berntsens lauded the fire crews.
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