Residents return after evacuations lifted for city of Herriman


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*Status report as of 4 p.m. Wednesday:- 4,351 acres burned

  • 0 homes evacuated
  • 3 homes destroyed
  • 50 percent contained* - - - - - -

HERRIMAN -- Herriman residents who were forced to spend the last three days away from home received great news Wednesday afternoon: All evacuation orders related to the Machine Gun wildfire were lifted.

Residents have been steadily streaming into the neighborhood at the top of Rose Canyon since 4 p.m. That's when Unified police started allowing people back in.

Cars started lining up a half hour before police officers opened the road block at Rose Canyon and Mountain Top Drive. Many couldn't wait to get back up to their homes after three days of waiting in less-than-ideal conditions.

"We can hardly wait to get home," Herriman resident Libby Wilson said. "I went down to the fire station and they said it would be released at 4:00 and we could all go back home, and I'm very happy."

"[I'm] pretty excited. I mean, we assumed it was going to be opened today with as much activity going on there, and of course the rain helped a little bit I'm sure; but [I'm] pretty excited about it," said Herriman resident Terry Shobb.

The Unified Fire Authority made the call to let everyone back into their homes Wednesday afternoon. Firefighters felt comfortable enough with their 50 percent containment to lift the evacuations.

Insurance and damage claim information:
  • Homeowners trying to make insurance claims must have this case number: 15568.
  • The Utah National Guard will also pay claims for homes lost in the fire. Claims will be processed through the U.S. Army Claims Service at Fort Carson, Colo. For more information call 801-432-4980 or toll free 877-901-4980.

They said Wednesday's rainy weather certainly helped relieve some of the hot spots on the fire. In fact, all crews were pulled off the lines when hail and lighting started to threaten their safety.

Jeremy Martinez had just arrived in St. George when the fire started Sunday. It came eerily close to his home, and he knows without the firefighters risking their lives, there would be nothing left.

"All this stuff can be replaced, but to see how much work they put into saving it, it's unreal," Martinez said. "To know that how fast it came over, what happened, I couldn't imagine being here."

His neighbor across the street, Korey Curtis, doesn't have to imagine; He refused to leave his home and was witness to the week's worth of events taking place outside. "The ash was just thick. It's like it was snowing and hot embers," Curtis described.

Curtis put on his oxygen mask and some goggles and, while a wall of fire rushed toward his house, he sprayed down his log home with a garden hose. He kept spraying until he thought there was no hope.

Curtis then hopped on his four-wheeler and drove up to the ridge, out of the fire's path.

"For two hours I prayed and just cried," he said. "I thought the house was gone."

But when the smoke cleared, his house was still standing. And he and his neighbors know their homes were spared because of the brave crews who fought to save them.

"I cried, and I was thankful," Curtis said.

UFA and other assisting agencies are now reassessing their plan, trying to determine when to put the crews back on the mountain. Because of the moisture, the fire didn't grow at all Wednesday, but UFA's chief says they've still got work to do.

"Just because you see some rain, I just want to re-emphasize it doesn't mean that it's going to completely put the fire out," UFA Chief Michael Jensen said. "We would have to have a prolonged, very heavy soaking rain in order to get it all out."

Unified police officers are still maintaining a heavy presence in Rose Canyon. They only want residents in this area and are asking who don't live in the neighborhood to stay out.

Meanwhile, representatives from the Red Cross say no one used their evacuation center at 4501 W. 11800 South Tuesday night. Now that all evacuation orders have been lifted, officials plan to close the center at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

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Story compiled with contributions from Nicole Gonzales and Jennifer Stagg.

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