NEOLA — Funeral services were held today for two men killed in a wildfire burning near here.

George Houston, 63, and his son Tracy Houston, 43, were buried in the town cemetery after a memorial service at an LDS chapel in Roosevelt.

The two men were killed Friday when the Neola North Fire first erupted. They were trying to help Roger Roberson, 75, protect his hay fields as the fire quickly approached. Tracy's son, 11-year-old Duane, escaped the fire.

According to his obituary published this week in the Uintah Basin Standard newspaper, George Houston was an employee of the U.S. Forest Service for 41 years.

"He enjoyed being in the out of doors, hauling wood in the mountains, building fence, helping his family with their 4-H show animals, and always had his dog Woofy at his side," his obituary said.

Roberson's funeral is scheduled for Saturday.

The Neola North Fire continues to burn in the dry timber of the Ashley National Forest. It has torched a dozen homes, 24 outbuildings and 12 vehicles. More than 42,000 acres in size, fire officials said it is 50 percent contained, but a threat remains to homes.

Thunderstorms moved over the Uintah Basin overnight, bringing strong winds, some lighting and a little rain. Fire officials hoped to assess the impact of the storm by mid-day today.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

The FBI, Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Forest Service continue to focus on an area around a power pole north of here, where the fire is believed to have originated. However, authorities remained tight-lipped about any possible cause.

"As far as I know, no determination of what happened has been made," said FBI Special Agent Trent Pedersen.

In a new development, the Moon Lake Electric Association's insurance carrier has hired its own investigator to look into the cause of the blaze. The investigator contacted the Deseret Morning News on Wednesday, seeking photographs from the fire.

Electric cooperative officials said hiring an investigator is common when there is a loss or questions of liability. Moon Lake Electric has estimated it lost 70 power poles in the fire. Early on, some blamed the power cooperative's electric lines for the fire. Moon Lake Electric has denied its lines started the wildfire.

"It doesn't appear that there was anything resulting from power lines," Moon Lake Electric staff assistant Diana Rasmussen said today. "There's not a transformer on the pole where the fire started. We just don't see anything that could cause the fire."

Numerous power crews have been seen out in places charred by the wildfire, putting up new poles, stringing new lines and working for as long as they've had daylight. Rasmussen said most of the electricity has been restored to the area.


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