Sunday, September 19, 2010

Camp Williams Wildfire Threatens Herriman, Utah; Residents Of 1,652 Homes Evacuated, Some Homes Already Lost

See updated post HERE for subsequent developments and aerial footage.

Update September 21st: All media sources now agree that only three homes were burned instead of four. A few assorted outbuildings were also destroyed.

A wind-fueled wildfire which began at Camp Williams spread northward, propelled by southerly 35 mph gusts, and threatened the city of Herriman, Utah itself. Several homes have been reported engulfed as of this post; one evacuee reported seeing four homes fully involved (only three homes were eventually confirmed to be burned). Residents of 1,652 homes (the latest total provided by KSL Channel 5) in Herriman were evacuated. The fire is now being referred to as the "Machine Gun Fire".

The area evacuated encompasses all homes south of 14000 South and west of 4700 West. Specifically, this includes all addresses in a zone bounded by the county line at the south, 14000 South on the North, 4700 West on the east and 8400 West on the west, according to Herriman City emergency management coordinators. All Rose Canyon Road, south of Butterfield Park Drive (14200 South) and south of Emmeline Drive as far east as Black Ridge Reservoir were under mandatory evacuation as of 8:15 p.m. All 500 homes in the High Country Estates II subdivision and the 232 homes in The Cove at Herriman Springs have remained under mandatory evacuation since 5 p.m. The area is expected to grow; evacuees are currently reconstituting at Herriman High School, 11917 S. Mustang Trail Way (6000 West).

-- Google map of Herriman available HERE.

-- Official city evacuation map available HERE, loads much faster than the previous link. Zoom controls on the bottom sidebar of the map.

-- Official updates posted on the BeReadyHerriman Twitter site.

-- Mesowest weather map of Salt Lake Valley provides real-time data on surface winds HERE.

-- KSL gallery of 105 photos HERE.

Media sources: Stories published by the Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News, KSTU Channel 13, and KSL Channel 5. KSL news video embedded below:

Video Courtesy of KSL.com



Here's a time lapse video from September 19th I found on Aimee81's blog:



Summary: The blaze started around 3:30 P.M. MDT on September 19th at a machine gun firing range at Camp Williams. National Guard soldiers were training when a spark from one of their rounds ignited dry brush. No tracer rounds were used during the firing. Although they reacted immediately and attempted to extinguish it, they did not have enough manpower and equipment to contain the fire, considering the strength of the winds. National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Hank McIntire says there are rules in place regarding what weather conditions must be present in order for that training to take place and says they will investigate whether any of those rules was broken. "With the wind with the way it is today conditions can change very quickly," McIntire says. "So if a unit had the green light to train but the conditions changed, that's what we're trying to find out."

From Camp Williams, the fire moved into Arnold’s Hollow of Rose Canyon and jumped over a dirt road that had previously acted as a barrier on Camp Williams’ northern border at Black Ridge. Bulldozers were digging up fire breaks to the fire’s east to keep it from spreading into the valley, but the wind kept blowing embers across the fire breaks.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert arrived at the scene to assess the situation. He called out 124 members of the Utah National Guard to assist the 100 firefighters and 30 units from throughout the county already on the scene fighting the blaze. Thirty-five CERT volunteers and 40 Herriman officials are on site as well. Three helicopters were reported to be dropping water over the flames earlier.

One couple could end up particularly unlucky. Rob and Janilyn Strom just bought a house in the area two weeks ago and plan to move in in November. They expressed concerns about their new house, however, because they don't yet have fire insurance. Another man had a narrow escape; Greg Wood said his neighbor's brother owns livestock and initially defied an evacuation order. Once he decided that he'd better leave, he had to drive through a 20-foot wall of flames to get out, Wood said. So far though, no deaths or serious injuries. One woman has been treated for smoke inhalation, two Unified Police Officers were treated for smoke inhalation and a third officer suffered minor injuries when he was hit by a vehicle whose driver wanted to return to his home.

Good luck, people.

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