A fire in Summit County, Utah has burned 14 homes plus about 20 other structures and several vehicles, forcing the evacuation dozens of people. The Rockport Fire continued to rage into Wednesday night, although firefighters had contained 25 percent of the 1,920 acre fire.
The fire began near a populated area and had grown to 2,000 acres, or nearly 3 square miles, by Wednesday evening. About 250 homes northeast of Park City remain threatened, including some along a golf course in the gated community of Promontory.
The fire comes amid a red flag warning for much of northeastern Utah, with high temperatures and low relative humidity creating dangerous conditions, according to the National Weather Service. That hot weather continues on Thursday, with temperatures expected to climb as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Around 300 homes in four neighborhoods–Rockport Estates, Rockport Ranches, Bridge Hollow, and Promontory–were under the evacuation order, which was called voluntary for adults but mandatory for children. About 215 homes are still threatened.
Burnouts of vulnerable land in Bridge Hollow and Promontory were successful.
Residents who hoped to return home Wednesday night aren’t likely to be allowed back in until Thursday at the earliest, said Utah fire official Mike Eriksson. Some were allowed to pick up pets and medication early Wednesday.
Steady winds and rising temperatures stoked the fire Wednesday afternoon, sending large clouds of brownish-black smoke into the sky. The fire was still only about 25 percent contained, said Eriksson.
“The winds haven’t been helping out with this fire,” Eriksson said. “It’s definitely growing.”
While the 14th home burned down on Wednesday, firefighters saved 22 others in the area where many have burned, leaving scorched earth right next to them.
Summit County District Fire Warden Bryce Boyer told the Deseret News that crews hope to be able to contain 50 percent of the shifting fire on Thursday. The wind-driven fire moved about 100 feet per minute at times on Wednesday.
All of the homes that have been burned so far were in the Rockport Estates community.
The fire was originally burning near the Lake Rockport Estates near State Road 32 near Coalville and Wanship. The fire was originally sparked by lightning.
The North Summit Middle School at 64 South 100 East in Coalville was made into an evacuation center by the Red Cross on Tuesday; another one was established at an LDS church at 510 Silver Summit Parkway in Park City. The shelters will remain open until at least 6 p.m. Thursday. Sheltering for pets of people in the shelters is available. At least 154 people have received help at the shelters so far, according to the Utah Red Cross.
Russ Moseley chose to stay in his home and fight back flames with a garden hose as it came within 150 feet, he told The Salt Lake Tribune. He said he could feel the heat radiating on his face and saw the fire swallow homes below his and blow up propane tanks.
“It’s like being in Vietnam,” Moseley said.
Firefighters, engines, bulldozers, and other resources were assigned from six counties and fire districts, including four helicopters. 167 personnel were fighting the fire on Wednesday evening.
Homes in Rockport Estates are worth around $250,000, and many were built in the 1970s as summer camps, but have since been improved for year-round residents, said Summit County Assessor Steve Martin. The subdivision is about 10 miles northeast of Park City.
Evacuations were also ordered in the Bridgehollow subdivision and in the exclusive Promontory, a community of more than 350 multimillion-dollar homes built around a golf course.
Flames crept right up to a ridgeline where the homes sit amid shifting winds, coming within 100 yards of some of the expensive homes.
Promontory is a 7,200 acre, 10-square-mile private mountain community offering diverse year-round recreational amenities and activities for residents. Other threatened homes are summer residences.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.