Slow progress seen on Utah fire that has burned structures

July 6, 2018
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Smoke pours from a wildfire near Duchesne, Utah, Thursday, July 5, 2018. (Ravell Call/The Deseret News via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah wildfire that has burned 90 structures and forced the evacuation of more than 1,100 people in a mountain area near a popular fishing reservoir was growing Friday but officials said they hope to increase containment soon.

The fire has burned about 75 square miles (193 square kilometers), according to information from the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

A 35-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 40 has been closed since Wednesday, said Sonya Capek, a fire spokeswoman.

The blaze has chewed through dry vegetation in an area about 80 miles (130 kilometers) southeast of Salt Lake City. It’s only 4 percent contained, but Capek said crews were optimistic that figure would rise after Friday’s work.

Officials believe the fire, which was reported Sunday, was caused by human activity, but an exact cause hasn’t been determined.

She said crews were working to ensure the fire doesn’t spread further west toward Strawberry Reservoir, which has remained open for fisherman and visitors except for a period on Wednesday, when a portion of the lake was closed because planes needed to scoop water from the lake to dump on the blaze.

A community meeting was held Thursday night in Duchesne for homeowners and residents to get updates from fire officials and to ask questions. Most residents wanted to know when they could return home and what condition their homes were in. County officials urged patience.

The burned structures likely include many homes and cabins, while others may be sheds or garages. A total of about 1,000 homes are threatened in the blaze.

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