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Jessica Harrison
The mountainside above Centerville is awash with flames on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011.

CENTERVILLE — A wildfire burning in the foothills east of 700 East and Parrish Lane on Thursday night consumed about 20 acres, though no homes were threatened, officials said.

"The closest homes are probably several hundred yards away," said South Davis Metro Fire Chief Jim Rampton.

The fire started about 7:45 p.m., but its cause was unknown, officials said.

Vaughn Hyde, who was visiting at his son's home near 1400 North, said he and others heard a loud explosion about the same time the fire started.

"We all looked at each other and thought, 'Wow. I wonder what that was,'" Hyde said.

About five minutes later, the group walked outside and saw the fire on the hillside.

Rampton said officials were investigating reports from residents who say they witnessed a "fireball" in the area.

Fire crews asked residents in four homes near 700 East to evacuate as a precaution, Rampton said. Others voluntarily left the area.

"I think most people are definitely concerned as they see this fire burning above their house, and they want to make sure they're safe," he said.

A firebreak road between 700 East and the fire helped protect homes in the area, Rampton said.

"It's still very much a concern to us that those houses are protected," he said. "But in this area, you have a nice line, a good firebreak and a lot of area to burn between those houses and the fire."

Winds played a big role in the spread of the fire, though they were dying down as crews battled the blaze late Thursday night.

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com