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Guest editorial: Miracle Mountain: We witnessed a miracle when our towns were spared from the devastating Pole Creek Fire

November 17, 2018

This summer, Utah experienced one of the worst fire seasons in decades. While Utah is no stranger to wildfires, this year was no typical fire season for Utah County.

Unfortunately, it has become common for wildfires to devastate large tracks of land throughout our rural counties, but rarely do we see these massive fires threatening homes in our more urban areas. In September, residents all across Utah Valley were horrified to see thick billowing smoke and glowing flames across the mountain ridges above our community in what quickly became known as the Bald Mountain and Pole Creek fires.

After burning more than 20,000 acres, these fires rapidly approached our backyards in Elk Ridge and Woodland Hills. We were forced to evacuate and abandon our homes to the mercy of the flames. As a community, we pulled together and put our trust in brave firefighters valiantly fighting back against the flames. During this difficult time, we were inspired by the kindness and generosity of our neighbors. In fact, Utahns throughout the valley offered so many beds to shelter displaced families that the American Red Cross had no need to offer additional shelter support. This is a hallmark of the Utah way.

Though grateful for the community response to impending disaster, swift winds and highly dangerous, extreme drought conditions made the threat to our homes critically serious. Our heroic firefighters put in tremendous effort to contain the fires, but the scorching flames remained on the cusp of destroying hundreds of homes. As the weather patterns threatened worsened conditions, there seemed to be no way to stop the blaze from tragically consuming these precious family homes. We knew that to save them, it would take a miracle.

On the night of Sept. 13, 2018, that miracle happened.

On that night, the conditions rapidly and very suddenly changed. The path the fire had been on — one certain to result in devastation of neighborhoods and homes — reversed course. The winds died down and changed direction altogether. Before long, the fire had moved behind the mountain, a signal that our homes would be saved. As Gov. Gary Herbert described the events he said, “we certainly saw the Hand of Providence the night of Sept. 13, when the Pole Creek Fire changed directions and spared hundreds.”

The next day, we drove through the cities and knew that we really had witnessed a miracle. As a gesture of gratitude and recognition for the divine intervention, we felt it would be appropriate to formally name this previously unnamed mountain. We contacted our congressman, John Curtis, who excitedly agreed to introduce federal legislation that would officially designate it as “Miracle Mountain.”

We are extremely grateful that Congressman Curtis, who was with us during the dark hours of the fire and during the aftermath, was so willing to quickly take up this cause. We express our sincere gratitude to the rest of Utah’s House congressional delegation, Representatives Bishop, Stewart and Love, for all joining Curtis in introducing the bill to name “Miracle Mountain.” We also appreciate Gov. Herbert’s support of the formal designation as well.

It is our hope that with this official naming of “Miracle Mountain,” it will become a permanent memorial, not only for the residents of Elk Ridge and Woodland Hills who were spared from disaster, but also for all Utahns as a tribute to our wildland firefighters and as a powerful reminder that miracles do happen. It is our hope that Congress will pass Congressman Curtis’ bill and send it to the president for enactment.

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