Southern Utah wildfire grows, crews make slight gains

Southern Utah wildfire grows, crews make slight gains

Almost 1,000 firefighters in southern Utah are banking on cooler weather conditions Sunday as they continue to tackle the country's largest wildfire.

Remains of a house after a wildfire moved through the area on June 25, 2017 outside Panguitch, Utah. According to the National Park Service, a Type 1 Team typically has the most training and experience in fighting wildfires. More than 700 people have been out of their homes in the small resort town of Brian Head since Saturday when the fire was started by someone using a torch to burn weeds. The blaze one of several firefighters are battling in the U.S. West as an extreme heatwave grips that part of the country.

The fire in California started Sunday afternoon in Santa Clarita north of Los Angeles, prompting authorities to send crews to fight the blaze that quickly grew to more than 1 square mile (2.6 square kilometers), fed by tinder-dry brush and driven by winds in stifling heat.

Fire crews have worked both day and night to contain the flames and have managed to achieve 8-percent containment.

A wildfire which prompted evacuations of over a thousand people from hundreds of homes and cabins in the USA state of Utah has been contained.

The fire has spread to 17 square miles (44 square kilometers) and is heading toward a lake used by recreationists and where some homes stand, said Erin Darboven of the Bureau of Land Management.

About 400 additional homes were evacuated Thursday. At that point, the evacuations were not yet mandatory. "It was pretty scary".

Evacuation orders were also issued for nearby mountain communities generally known for weekend getaway homes for Las Vegas residents.

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LaRue Billings, who spends summers with her husband in their recreational vehicle near Panguitch Lake, said the couple could spot flames from their campsite Wednesday before they packed up and left Thursday.

"We were scared. We couldn't tell how far away it was", said Hathaway of Orem, Utah.

She said beetles have killed off trees in the surrounding forest, leaving lots of dried wood on the ground.

The unidentified person accused of starting the blaze could face charges, officials said.

"I'm sure that had a lot to do with fueling the fire", Billings said.

Authorities said better weather conditions helped firefighters secure areas of particular concern, including the many structures affected by the fire. Paul Gabor, vice director of the Vatican Observatory, says the blaze came within probably 30 feet of the building but didn't cause it to catch fire. But Gabor suspects the heat damaged metal on the exterior and is concerned smoke could have damaged electronic equipment and mirrors on the telescope. The Frye Fire is about 70 miles northeast of Tucson, the second-largest city in Arizona.

Officials said ceremonial fires will be permitted as long a tribal burn registration is obtained.

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