Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 1:42 PM
Unpredictable winds and high temperatures were challenging crews in their battle Saturday against a Utah wildfire that forced more than 2,300 people to flee their homes.
Firefighters were posted around neighborhoods in Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain, about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City, after the blaze burned within a quarter mile of some homes Friday, said Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Teresa Rigby.
No homes have burned, she said, and fire officials want to see what the nearly 9-square-mile fire on tinder-dry grasslands does Saturday afternoon before deciding whether residents can return to homes.
"All the mandatory evacuations are still in effect and homes are still threatened," Rigby told The Associated Press. "We are getting a little better measure of containment in some areas, but we're still not there where we can say it's safe (for the evacuation order to be lifted."
The evacuation order affects nearly 600 homes and over 2,300 residents, according to an updated count released Saturday by fire officials.
Daytime highs in the 90s, 5 percent humidity and wind gusts expected to reach 35 mph were combining to create extreme fire danger, Rigby said.
The fire that officials believe was started Thursday by target shooters was 30 percent contained Saturday afternoon, with full containment expected Tuesday.
— In Colorado, firefighters gave up some ground to a wildfire that has scorched more than 118 square miles and destroyed at least 191 homes west of Fort Collins. Crews stationed near threatened homes Friday had to retreat for their safety, and the fire's containment slipped from 60 percent to 45 percent. Authorities issued nearly 1,000 evacuation notices Friday night, some of which went to residents who had returned home just two days earlier. Meanwhile, a fire near Mancos in southwestern Colorado prompted authorities to order the evacuation of 55 homes Saturday. The blaze, reported Friday, has burned an estimated 2,500 acres
— In Nevada, a wildfire that has scorched more than 11,000 acres of rugged terrain in northeast Nevada near the Utah line is 75 percent contained. It began as a U.S. Forest Service prescribed burn that escaped June 9.
— In New Mexico, a lightning-caused wildfire that destroyed 242 homes and businesses is 90 percent contained after crews got a break in the weather. Crews took advantage of heavy rain Friday to increase containment lines on the 69-square-mile fire near Ruidoso that began June 4. Meanwhile, the more than 464-square-mile Whitewater-Baldy blaze, the largest in state history, is 87 percent contained. It began May 16 as two lightning-caused blazes that merged to form one fire.
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