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Large fire burning near Camp Williams forces evacuations


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CAMP WILLIAMS -- Crews are working to contain a large, fast-moving fire sparked at a Camp Williams machine gun firing range Sunday.

At least 1,400 homes in Herriman have been evacuated, and more evacuations are expected to take place overnight.

Fire officials have confirmed three homes have caught fire, but did not give specific addresses. That number could grow as hundreds of homes face immediate threat.

Herriman City Mayor Josh Mills and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon have signed a declaration of State of Emergency. Gov. Gary Herbert is also on site.

Mandatory evacuation orders issued

The Unified Police Department has set up barricades enforcing evacuation orders.

Unified Fire Capt. Brad Taylor says residents of 232 homes in The Cove at Herriman Springs and all 500 homes in the High Country Estates II subdivision are under mandatory evacuation.

The city has expanded the mandatory evacuation order to homes and businesses:

  • South of Emmeline Drive, Butterfield Parkway and Blackridge Reservoir
  • On Rose Canyon Road
  • South of 14000 South and west of 4700 West (Juniper Point neighborhood)

Westbound 13400 South at 5600 West is shut down as well. Police have confirmed some residents have refused to leave their homes.

Red Cross sets up shelter at Herriman High School

An evacuation site has been set up at Herriman High School at 11917 S. 6000 West. The site was originally established at Fort Herriman Middle School but had to be moved when the fire got too close.

As of 11:25 p.m., close to 150 people had checked into the American Red Cross shelter at the high school. Some small animals are being accepted at the shelter, and animal control is on site.

CERT volunteers helped set up 600 cots for residents staying the night. Red Cross officials say they do not need any more volunteers at the shelter for now.

Large animals are now being evacuated to the Salt Lake County Equestrian Park at 2051 W. 11400 South.

"This is really a coordinated, collaborated effort to see what we can do to stop the fire," said Gov. Herbert.

Officials are asking residents in Salt Lake County to stay off their cell phones so emergency information can be transmitted. Residents are asked not to call 911, but to instead call Herriman City Hall at 801-446-5323. Updates are also available on Twitter at Be Ready Herriman.

Information from the American Red Cross is available by calling 801-323-7000.

Multiple agencies join forces to fight fire

Helicopters have been brought in to drop buckets of water and fire retardant to fight the blaze. Over 100 firefighters and 30 units are working to control the flames, which have spread over hundreds of acres.

More than 120 National Guardsman have been activated to help with the effort. Thirty-five CERT volunteers and 40 Herriman officials are on site as well.

Taylor says three officers have been hurt. Two were treated for smoke inhalation, one at the hospital and one on site.

A third officer was injured when he tried to stop the driver of a car at a roadblock. The driver refused to stop, and drove through, hitting the officer. He suffered minor injuries and is still working at the scene.

Training at Camp Williams ignites blaze

According to Lt. Col. Hank McIntire with the Utah National Guard, the fire broke out at the Camp Williams machine gun range during a training exercise just before 3:30 p.m. The flames spread quickly.

Earlier in the day, the fire was fueled by winds of up to 35 miles per hour. Fire officials say those gusts made it extremely difficult to fight the flames.

"Because of the wind gusts we are getting embers that are being blown a couple of hundred feet. That can start spot fires," said Taylor.

An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the fire has been launched. McIntire says no tracer rounds, which can be a fire hazard, were used in the machine gun training.

He says there are rules in place regarding what weather conditions must be present in order for that training to occur and says they will investigate whether any of those rules was broken.

"With the wind with the way it is today conditions can change very quickly," McIntire said. "So if a unit had the green light to train but the conditions changed, that's what we're trying to find out."

Residents react

Thousands of residents are dealing with the idea they may not have homes to return to.

"It's been pretty frightening for me. I've seen at least three, four homes burn down, completely collapse," said Joshua Bennett, a Herriman resident. "It's basically hell. Just out of control. There's no stopping it."

Some were concerned there weren't enough people there to fight the giant blaze.

"There were at least two houses completely engulfed in flames," said evacuee Kristin Cappo. "It's all the way down the side of the mountains, right in everybody's backyards. It doesn't really look like anybody is trying to stop it yet. There were a bunch of cul-de-sacs where nobody was even up there yet, so I just don't think they have enough people. "

One man says he returned home, only to be told he had to get out. "When I got home, I saw the fire all the way from I-80. I didn't feel good about that," he said. "I threw all my coolers and stuff and grabbed documents and important memorabilia."

John Tedrow lives in The Cove subdivision. He refused to leave his neighborhood when the mandatory evacuation notice was issued, and says he wasn't alone.

"I've just got my eyes stuck on a spot that I think, where my house might have been, still is, I don't know because I can't even get answers from the police officers down here," he said.

Tedrow says he and his neighbors were frustrated with the way officials handled the situation. Many felt blown off when they called 911 to report the fire.

"The first helicopter didn't even get up here until sometime after 6:00 tonight with water," he said. "By that time that fire had already breached, it had already come well over the mountain."

Schools may be impacted

Jordan School District officials are debating whether to close Herriman schools Monday. District spokesman Steve Dunham says anywhere between 800 and 1,200 students could be affected.

Dunham says an announcement will be made early Monday morning. Providence Hall Charter Elementary School is the first to cancel class because of the fire.

Lt. Don Hutson with the Unified Police Department says one woman has been treated for smoke inhalation. City officials are asking everyone to stay away from Herriman because congestion is becoming an issue.

"I appreciate the fact that people are working together. We've had an abundance of volunteers. That's been great, very heartwarming," said Gov. Herbert. "In fact it's almost been too much. Some of the volunteers are clogging the streets."

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorized federal funds to help cover 75 percent of the costs related to fighting this fire.

Gov. Herbert says he is already looking at ways to help residents affected by the fire rebuild.

"Everything that can be done is being done. We will be looking at helping people with resources, make sure we will have continued shelter capability, food, clothes, medications, those kinds of things that people will be needing over the next few days," the governor said. "This doesn't end today and it doesn't end when the fire's out. We've got some other work to do long term."

The Unified Fire Authority will be holding press conferences at Station 103 at 5900 West 13100 South every hour starting at 11 p.m.

We have a crew at the scene and will bring you the most updated details as they become available.

Stay tuned to KSL.com, KSL Newsradio 102.7FM/1160AM and KSL TV for the latest updates.

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Story compiled with contributions from John Hollenhorst and Nicole Gonzales.

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