Residents of three Evanston subdivisions were evacuated Saturday afternoon as flames from a man-caused fire crept near houses on the southwest side of town.

The fire started at 1 p.m. in a subdivision and was "definitely not (caused by) lightning," said Dick Salmela, assistant Evanston fire chief. "It came awful close" to houses, Salmela said. "I understand it had actually melted some siding on some houses."Dozens of residents were evacuated to a recreation center, while firefighting crews from Evanston and Uinta County volunteer fire departments battled the blaze for 31/2 hours.

The fire destroyed a building on the hillside used by local ham radio operators. It damaged a repeater used for Uinta County communications and burned several acres of brush.

Chevron, USA, Inc. donated a helicopter to assist in surveying the fire lines. The fire cut a visible scar in the hillside, as the smell of charred brush filtered through the southwest Wyoming community.

"Normally, especially when it's this close to town, we'd use three pumpers and it would take one hour" to put out, said Salmela. "With the brush as dry as it was and the wind, we couldn't get a head on it."

Because of dry conditions, Saturday's fire required the use of two dozen trucks to contain. "We almost burned up one truck there," Salmela said.

Hot spots were still flaring at dusk. One road grader rolled over on the hillside while attempting to snuff remaining hot spots. The driver was uninjured.

Nearby residents who weren't evacuated sat on porches, nursing cold drinks, and marveled as the wind whipped the flames closer to homes.