Workers from the Utah Department of Health and public information officers left Ziploc bags containing information for returning evacuees on the doors of each home in the area.
Each residence was tagged with one of three colors. Green meant there were no limitations for using or living in the home. Houses tagged yellow had some exterior damage, but were still habitable. Red tagged homes were those that were destroyed.
Resident Wendy Gray felt a sense of gratitude, not only for the other residents, but to the firefighters who were able to save so many homes. She teared up as she thanked Ken Smith, North Summit County Fire Department chief.
"Right now I'm just filled with gratitude for the firefighters," Gray later said.
Returning home was bittersweet for her, because some neighbors lost their homes.
"You can't come back to the mountain without them being at the very forefront of your thoughts," Gray said.
Looking over the charred hillside and homes that had burned down to their foundation, Alan Lindsley, Lake Rockport Estates manager, pointed to a property with a charred perimeter surrounding it and said its defensible space saved it from the flames. A fire truck was sitting in the driveway, but firefighters sat on the hood as the blaze extinguished itself upon hitting defensible space.
The opposite side of the mountain reminded Lindsley of the moon. Rocks and charred tree remnants stuck out from the burnt surface.
A few homes were surrounded by foliage and lacked defensible space. They were spared because of the firefighters' intervention, Lindsley said.
Firefighters worked against winds and an 80-foot-high firewall to save homes. The wind caused the fire to jump, he said, making it hard to predict and combat.
Residents called Lindsley to have him thank the firefighters who saved their home, he said, but he never knew who to thank because it was a group effort. Thanks to their work, most of the homes were saved.
"Losing anything is sad, but at one time it looked like we were going to lose everything," Lindsley said.
Ultimately, Paletta's home was not damaged in the fire. Outside her home Monday morning, still holding a bag of bread, she hugged a neighbor who had stopped their truck to chat.
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