Residents of mountain homes in Killyon and Pinecrest canyons who were evacuated Friday will return home for good Tuesday evening if firefighting efforts continue at the current pace.
"If we get heavy winds or something it's possible we wouldn't open the area, but it looks good," said Forest Service spokesman Dick Pine.Evacuated residents of 11 Killyon Canyon homes were allowed to return home for the night Monday - shortly before several crews fighting the 5,600-acre Affleck Park fire in Emigration Canyon near their homes were diverted to Lambs Canyon when a resident there saw flames outside his cabin and fled after alerting firefighters.
The Lambs Canyon fire was short-lived, controlled by Salt Lake County and Forest Service firefighters after it destroyed the cabin and five to 10 wooded acres, said Interagency Fire Center dispatcher Wendy Evans.
A fire near Deer Creek Reservoir had burned 815 acres and was still burning out of control Tuesday morning. But an almost two-week-old fire near Powder Mountain was contained Monday at 6 p.m., Evans said. A fire that blackened 400 acres in steep terrain above Alpine in Utah County was controlled Monday at 6 p.m.
Still another fire that started Monday afternoon near Paradise, Cache County, was being tackled mostly by local
ire crews Tuesday after burning less than 10 acres, said fire information officer Ray Tate.
The situation remained somewhat tenuous Tuesday for Killyon and Pinecrest canyon residents, who did not know during most of the day whether they would be returning home that evening. Power crews were working Tuesday to restore electricity to the Pinecrest area, but new poles had to be flown in by helicopter, which was slowing the job, Tate said.
Pinecrest Canyon residents, who have been kept away from their homes since they were evacuated Friday, were allowed into their homes Monday to check on conditions but were not allowed to stay. Residents of Killyon Canyon, also evacuated Monday, were shuttled into their homes Monday evening and were allowed to stay until morning before being taken out of the canyon and away from ground and aerial firefighting activities.
Evans said the fire was estimated to be 77 percent contained Tuesday morning with 497 people involved in the firefighting effort.
Fire and law enforcement officials who permitted Killyon Canyon residents to stay the night in their homes Monday planned to assess the overall situation later Tuesday and to let homeowners know when they would be allowed to return home permanently.
"I think it's going to feel good to be normal again," said Leslie Giddings as she surveyed the changed surroundings of her Killyon Canyon house. Only two days earlier, she feared she'd end up homeless.
Flames from the fire came within about 20 yards of the Giddings home, but the house was miraculously unscathed.
"It's weird. It almost looks like nothing ever happened, but if you walk 30 feet away, you can see what it's done," said Mike Giddings. Mike and his father, Cal Giddings, cut down trees surrounding their home, watered down their house and fought to prevent the fire from reaching them throughout the night Friday.
"Both Mike and I were working like crazy until the fire hit," said Cal Giddings. "It was a very, very worrisome and exhausting night."
Flames surrounded the house from three sides and some were as high as 50 feet, he said. Twice during the night he called his wife to say it was over but admitted he never thought of throwing down his shovel and running to safety.
"It would have to be burning down before I'd have left," he said. "We were very lucky - incredibly lucky."
Kristina Hindert, whose home lies just feet away from burned timber, said she, too, thought her house had been destroyed Friday night.
"We were really lucky because the full force (of the fire) was originally coming this way," she said. "It's just great to still have a home."
Hindert, along with most of the other residents, had great praise for the firefighters and their efforts.
"It's the work these guys did that saved our house," she said. "Now all I have to do is clean out the smelly fridge."
Another resident, Claire Clark, said she was returning to her home Monday to feed two pet cats who had been there since Friday. Although she had been able to briefly return home and assess the damage earlier, she said she was anxious to return home again.
"I just like going home," she said.
County Fire Marshal Max J. Berry said Monday the limitations are expected to be in force for at least two days. He said fire officials are constantly reviewing conditions and hope to allow regular access to the homes as soon as possible.
Berry said that while Killyon Canyon is considered "100 percent controlled" and safe, residents' access is still restricted because of the need to move heavy equipment along the narrow roads and because helicopter pilots flying water buckets refuse to fly across areas where civilian traffic is present.
Fire officials say the chances of a backwash of flames from the Emigration Canyon fire, which has moved into the Freeze Creek and Red Butte Canyon areas, remains high and crews are still working to cool hot spots just across the ridge west of the homes.
Pine said the fire shouldn't threaten Red Butte Canyon unless winds gust and push flames down into the canyon or unless firefighters are unable to fly retardant tankers over the area.
Weather has been cooperating and crews are nearing containment. Fire Incident Manager John Shive said crews hope to have the blaze contained by Tuesday evening.
Favorable weather conditions Monday evening helped keep the Lambs Canyon fire from getting away from firefighters, Alder said.
The numerous firefighters in the vicinity made for quick response to the Lambs Canyon fire, Evans said.
During an information meeting Monday night, Pinecrest residents thanked and applauded firefighters and the Red Cross for their efforts in helping them. Although there were also many questions and frustrations, most were simply thankful their homes had been protected.
About 140 firefighters are working the ridge above Pinecrest to ensure the fire does not creep back into the residential areas. Firefighters made a number of valiant stands on Friday and Saturday and managed to keep all houses unscathed by the blaze.
Berry said one such stand involved a house where two firemen hosed down the roof and property while two others fought the blaze working down the side of the hill. The blaze came within five feet of the firemen before finally succumbing to the water.
Even though fire crews contained the Powder Mountain fire Monday after consuming 2,400 acres, full control of the fire is not expected until Wednesday, Evans said.
The Wallsburg fire near Deer Creek reservoir was reported 50 percent contained Monday evening by the Forest Service after burning 815 acres.