OGDEN — A fast-moving brushfire threatened homes near the mouth of Ogden Canyon Tuesday morning. And investigators believe it was intentionally set.
"This could have been a bad fire," said Ogden Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Schwenk. "It could have easily gotten away from us."
The fire came within 10 feet of some homes with the heat from the fire melting vinyl rain gutters and cracking some windows. Between 40 and 50 homes were evacuated.
Although investigators did not know Tuedsay what the intent was of the person who set the fire nor would they say how the fire was started, Schwenk said based on the evidence collected it was believed the fire was human-caused an set intentionally.
Crews from Ogden, Weber County and South Ogden responded quickly and were able to get a good handle on the fire within 90 minutes and were putting out hot spots in two hours.
"I think we got a good stop and saved a lot of property," Schwenk said.
The fire started in an area of trees and tall, dry grass just off 12th Street near the mouth of Ogden Canyon about 6:30 a.m. Flames did not reach a nearby power plant.
But the fire came within 10 feet of John and Toni Deherrera's home.
"We were just getting out of bed and we saw smoke back there," John Deherrera said. "And just about that time, the doorbell rang and the police were here and they got us out of the house and they told us to get into our car and get out of here."
As Deherrera was running out the door, he said he saw flames that were 20 feet high next to the fence that divided his property with a field. He had enough time only to grab his wallet. But then his wife tried to get hers, too.
"She headed for the back bedroom and the one policeman grabbed her and said, 'No, you don't have time. Get out of here.' And I tell ya, there was a wall of fire right there, I'm lucky the house escaped," he said.
Deherrera and his wife drove to a street above their house that wasn't evacuated and watched the smoke from the fire rise into the air, although they couldn't see their own house.
About two hours later, they were allowed to return to the home where they have lived for the past 28 years.
"We're lucky. We thought the house was gone for sure," Deherrera said as he used his leaf blower to blow ashes and soot from the fire off his car. "We sat up there for an hour and a half. We didn't know if the house was still there or not."
The Ogden fire could have easily turned into a situation like Herriman had last week. Schwenk said canyon winds between 15 and 20 mph with gusts between 20 and 30 mph pushed the fire in several directions. The fire only burned 10 to 15 acres. But it started close to a neighborhood.
"The fire came up to the back side of some condominiums and did some damage to the fence, but our crews were able to prevent it from doing any further damage there," he said. "Fire crews did a fantastic job. They got up here, they got out on the fire quick. They got ahead of the fire."
When asked whether he had been worried that it was only a matter of time before Ogden joined the growing list of communities and cities with brushfires this year, Schwenk replied, "Every day. Every day we worry about it."
With the Fourth of July coming up tomorrow, Schwenk said he hoped residents would use "common sense" with fireworks. There is a fireworks restriction in Ogden for all areas east of Harrison Boulevard and along the river parkway.
Anyone with information on who started the Ogden Canyon Fire can call police at 801-629-8221.