Evacuations underway due to 300-acre Range Fire in Utah County

OREM, Utah, Oct. 17, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — Officials battling Utah County’s Range Fire, estimated at estimated at 300 acres, say they anticipate dousing the blaze will be a multi-day endeavor, and say a number of homes already have been evacuated at the mouth of Provo Canyon and just up the canyon.

Fire Battalion Chief Shaun Hirst, Orem Fire Department, told reporters he could not estimate the number of homes affected, but the structures are located in the Olmstead area, the area of the old Cascade Golf Course, and up Provo Canyon. Hirst said those neighborhoods are considered to be in “imminent danger.”

The evacuation is in anticipation of the evening breeze, which comes down the canyon, and could drive flames down the canyon, putting structures and residents in danger. Several hunters were evacuated from the canyon earlier today, Hirst said.

A subsequent Utah Fire Info tweet said evacuations have been ordered for Squaw Peak Road south of Provo Canyon and for five to 10 homes at the mouth of Provo Canyon. U.S. 189 is closed from the mouth of Provo Canyon to mile marker 15 due to fire activity and smoke impacting visibility, the tweet says.

Hirst said the cause of the fire is still being investigated, and said there is a firing range nearby, and “personnel” were training, so that is one possibility. The fire was initially named “the gun range incident.” The Forest Service will be the investigating agency, he said.

The flames are being fueled by grasses and gambel and scrub oaks, he said, adding that as the fire climbs upward, less scrub oak will be available.

Hirst estimated 100 to 120 firefighters from six agencies were on the operation as of about 4:30 p.m., which was about 4 and a half hours into the firefighting efforts. The fire is being fought from the ground and the air, he said.

Three helicopters spent the afternoon fighting the fire, as did six fixed-winged aircrafts, and multiple fire engines and brush trucks. Additional engines were requested from the Salt Lake City area to help protect at-risk residences and the infrastructure for Orem’s water supply, located on the hillside, he said.

Emergency centers are being set up for displaced residents, Hirst said, but the locations are not yet confirmed. The Red Cross is assisting in that effort, he said.

“This is going to be an extended event,” Hirst said. “I think this will be going on for multiple days.”

Gephardt Daily will have more news as information becomes available.


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