Utah fire burns up to 30 structures, forces evacuations
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Darren Lewis and his extended family planned to spend the Fourth of July at a cabin built nearly 50 years ago by his father and uncle that is nestled in a narrow canyon in the Utah wilderness.
Instead, Lewis and his family will spend the holiday nervously waiting to hear if a half century of family memories will go up in smoke.
The cabin that sits next to a mountain river surrounded by pine, quake and red river birch trees is among 200 to 300 homes and cabins that have been evacuated because of a Utah wildfire that started Sunday and has grown to about 47 square miles (122 square kilometers) amid hot temperatures and high winds.
The wildfire has burned 20 to 30 structures, including homes and cabins, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said on Tuesday after he met with firefighters and evacuees in the small town of Duchesne, about 115 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.
As of Tuesday morning, the Lewis cabin remained untouched.
“There’s a lot of history and memories that go into this cabin,” said Lewis, 44, of Magna, Utah. “The cabin we could rebuild, but the trees that we love would be gone. We’re just hoping that the wind blows the other way.”
The Utah fire comes as hot, dry conditions are fueling blazes in several Western states, including in Colorado and California.
The blaze, which officials believe was human-caused, started Sunday about 5 miles southeast of the popular fishing spot of Strawberry Reservoir.
But the fire is spreading away from that lake to the east, which means the reservoir remains open for fishing and visitors, said Josh Phillips, the general manger of the Strawberry Bay Marina and Lodge. Phillips said there’s no haze or smoke at the lake.
“We’re still plenty open. Sun is shining, and it’s a beautiful day,” Phillips said. “They’re binging in a lot of fish right now, especially kanokee salmon.”
Lewis, a window salesman, said he won’t be doing much relaxing until the fire is controlled. He hopes first and foremost that the firefighters stay safe.
He said he has just finished building a new double deck on the front on the A-frame cabin on Sunday when he first heard about the fire burning near Strawberry Reservoir. Lewis said he wasn’t initially worried because it was still miles away. But by Monday morning, he knew the fire was serious.
In addition to the 1,000-square foot cabin, there are six trailers on the lot that the Lewis family stays in. Lewis said he also left his four-wheeler n the property, thinking he’d be back in a few days.
His uncle was able to get back in the cabin briefly on Monday to grab family pictures taken from when they first built the cabin 46 years ago. But then he was then told to leave by authorities, Lewis said.
“It’s tough knowing that we may have to rebuild everything,” Lewis said.