U.S. 89 closed due to brush fire at mouth of Weber Canyon

Photo: Gephardt Daily/Nancy Van Valkenburg

WEBER COUNTY, Utah, Sept. 5, 2017 (Gephardt Daily) — The Uintah Fire, which started Tuesday morning at the mouth of Weber Canyon, had grown to an estimated 1,200 acres by 2:30 p.m., and remained at zero percent contained, according to officials.

At least six structures had burned, including four fixed residences, a manufactured home and a garage, said spokesman Doug Bitton, of the Layton Fire Department. More than 100 firefighters were on the ground or in the air, and a federal firefighting crew is scheduled to arrive with additional resources in the morning, he said.

“It’s a horrific fire, probably the worst (here) in 50 years,” Bitton said.

Bitton estimated that more than 1,000 people had been evacuated from area homes, and those cleared to return were advised that night winds, a normal occurrence in that area, could drive the fire back toward homes, so residents should be packed and prepared to evacuate.

Bitton suggested people pack bags with items that would be needed in the short term, and with contact information for family members and other associates.

Six airplanes have been in rotation, dropping fire retardant on the area, and five helicopters were scooping up water to drop on flames.

Bitton asked that homeowners leaving work not return to the area, which is congested with firefighters. Bitton asked that residents go to Weber State University’s Dee Events Center, 4450 Harrison Blvd., where they will be given updates and assistance.

Parts of U.S. 89 near have reopened to allow homeowners easier access to leave the area. U.S. 84 was closed, but westbound traffic is now open.

The fire is threatening multiple structures, Weber Fire District Marshal Brandon Thueson told Gephardt Daily.

Evacuations are in place from the west side of Bybee Drive to the east side of Borg Circle; and everything east of Combe Drive and Regency, which includes Karen Drive and Bonneville Terrace Drive, Thueson added.

Close to noon, the evacuations were lifted in South Weber County, South Weber Fire Department tweeted, and residents may return to their homes.

South Weber Elementary school at 1285 Lester Drive also had been evacuated as a precaution, and parents were asked to go to Clearfield High, at 931 S. 1000 East, to pick up their children. Uintah Elementary at 6115 S. 2250 East is also evacuating to Dee Events Center.

Strong downdrafts in the canyon are making the blaze unpredictable, Thueson said.

The Weber County Sheriff’s Office reported on its Facebook page that it would have additional deputies in the communities near the fire, providing help and an extra sense of security for those forced to leave their homes.

Sandra, who did not give her last name but lives across I-84 from where the fire began, said she and her husband, Rye, saved their vacationing neighbor’s dog, then helped to save three houses with six other neighbors.

“Got the dog, took it over to our friend’s house, had the truck packed up, they started gathering hoses and turning on sprinklers; the house right across the street, the whole back yard went up in flames, the down slope, the garden; they ran, they put hoses, they put fires out at three different houses and stopped there,” Sandra told Gephardt Daily. “I was scared ’cause he’s just, shirt off, and with a hose.”

Her husband said he’d heard of others doing the same thing, on top of roofs.

“South Weber’s a good town,” Sandra added. “We all had our hoses out, and we walked down streets, me and a couple of neighbors, just knocking on doors, checking everybody, I waved down one fire truck, because nobody was home and it was going off and they went back and helped them finish putting it out. You don’t think it’s going to jump I-84 and a gravel pit, and it did. The wind and the fire added, we never would have thought it would jump all the way up the canyon.”

Shanell Terry said she got up at approximately 7 a.m. and heard sirens about half an hour later. “I stepped outside to check out what was going on, see if I could see anything, and noticed the fire up on the mountain. Just as the day had progressed, and with the wind, it had just progressed clear down into South Weber along the freeway and stuff. I have a bunch of friends and family down this way. I have a best friend who lives down here where it got pretty bad, and I came down here to check on her dogs and see if I couldn’t get them out, as she works in Salt Lake and her husband was away in Idaho.”

The fire department told Terry to get out as fast as she could.

“They were evacuating all the neighbors, as I was getting the dogs, I got them both out but then one went back in and I got locked out of my vehicle, so the fire department said, break a window and get out of there as fast as you can. As the day has progressed we’ve noticed black smoke from a couple of the big fires and just the structures and stuff behind some of these houses where there were pretty big flames.”

Drivers are being advised to avoid the area.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

Gephardt Daily has a crew on the scene and we will have more on this developing story as information becomes available.

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