Everybody is just being patient and hoping that they get this (fire) under control so that we can return home. —Richard Starley
Related: Mandatory evacuation map
ALPINE — The Quail Fire, which forced hundreds of residents to evacuate Tuesday, continued to burn out of control Wednesday.
Revised estimates indicated the fire had burned nearly 2,000 acres and 5 percent of the blaze was contained as of Wednesday evening. Fire officials had initially said the wildfire had burned 5,000 acres, but that figure was downgraded.
Approximately 300 fire personnel are battling the fire, but with a Type 2 team taking command Thursday morning, crews were hoping to get a better handle of the fire then.
That team becomes the sixth Type 2 team in Utah fighting fires. Type 2 firefighting teams are regionally managed and provide additional state and federal help, including additional planning assistance and overhead to attack fires.
Crews were focused on the south end of the Quail Fire Wednesday and dry fuel in the area put a lot more smoke into the air.
The majority of the burn was occurring about a mile east of Alpine. Wednesday evening, the fire was mostly burning in Willow Canyon and moving south toward the mouth of American Fork Canyon but was not directly endangering any homes.
American Fork Canyon will remain closed at least through Thursday, officials said.
Mandatory evacuations were issued Tuesday for about 500 homes. Just before noon on Wednesday, however, the evacuation order was lifted for about 150 homes west of Country Manor Lane from 300 North south to Oak Hills Drive and Moon Lane and 25 additional households were allowed to return later in the afternoon.
Cyndy Parkinson was among those allowed to return to her house on Meadow Circle. She could still see large plumes of smoke and flames from her yard, but was glad to be back.
"I'm a little less worried since they said we could get back into our house," she said. "They must not be as worried."
The view, however, still caused her concern. "If (the fire) got down and got to one house, then these houses would be like kindling. It would just go from one to the next," she said.
Parkinson "didn't sleep real good" Tuesday night, worrying that she could lose her house and everything in it.
"(In the heat of the moment) you wonder if you should be running around grabbing everything, but if you've got your family — you've got the most valuable thing," she said.
For resident Richard Starley, his wait was longer. No one from his neighborhood had been given permission to return Wednesday evening, but he remained optimistic.
"Everybody is just being patient and hoping that they get this (fire) under control so that we can return home," he said.
Starley and his family were sitting in their home Tuesday when they heard sirens.
While the sounds did draw their attention, they had no reason that it would be cause for alarm. Not long afterwards, a neighbor called and told him to look outside.
"We looked out the window and could see the flames and the smoke," Starley said. "We were out in the front yard (when) the police drove by and told us that we needed to evacuate."
Starley, his wife and two sons "gathered up some personal belongings and loaded them up into the car not knowing if we would be able to return or not."
"We were quite concerned," he said.
The family made their way to the Red Cross relief shelter at Timberline Middle School in Alpine where they spent the night — four of 42 people who registered at the shelter on Tuesday.
Fire officials were worried about an expected overnight cold front that could pose problems for firefighters if it bought strong winds with little precipitation. They were watching the weather closely.
Gawkers were also presenting problems for crews trying to access fire areas Wednesday. U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials called on fire watchers to stay away in order to allow firefighters and their equipment to have unobstructed access to where they are needed in the area.
BLM officials also said stage 2 restrictions could be implemented if hazardous fire conditions persisted. Such restrictions would prohibit open fires on any public lands statewide. Currently, open fires are only allowed in developed areas such as camping and fire pit sites.
Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who lives in Alpine, was grateful for the firefighting efforts.
"God bless the men and women who actually step up. They're here at 3, 4 o'clock in the morning, making sure nobody's home gets burned. They're stretched to the walls right now," he said. "We're bringing in people from all states, from Idaho to Oregon to New Mexico. A team from California is fighting the fire right now down in Millard County, so it's all hands on deck."
Each aerial water and retardant drop and each fire crew that assists with the firefighting efforts has a cost. Chaffetz said he would work to see that federal government funds help absorb that cost.
"The federal government is going to have to pony up a lot of money. This is multiple millions of dollars with the air assets," Chaffetz said. "They gave me a really cool business card and I just want to make sure we can plow through any red tape."
Homeowner Jeff Smith said he has gained a lot of respect for firefighters.
"The terrain's terrible. It's stiff, so you got to fight it by air, which they're doing a very good job, so I'm happy with that," he said. "The concern for the homes is generally gone, unless the wind were to really change. I think that concern is mostly gone. But fighting fires is not an easy thing."
The Quail Fire burned one barn Tuesday and caused heat damage to a couple of homes. But thanks to the firefighting efforts and a shift in the wind, the flames mostly stayed away from structures Wednesday.
Officials believe the wildfire may have started near the rodeo grounds in Alpine. A Deseret News photographer took photos of a track hoe in that area showing flames Tuesday afternoon.
“The information that came in initially is that it was caused by a track hoe, an individual working on a track hoe area," said Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon. "I don’t know if there were sparks or … just the heat of the machinery itself.”
Visit http://www.alpinecity.org/ for the latest available information on the Quail Fire evacuation.
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