News / Utah / 

Three Die In Utah Wildfire

Three Die In Utah Wildfire

10 photos

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

Sarah Dallof Reporting

Three eastern Utah towns evacuated, three people dead, and thousands upon thousands of acres burned.

Dozens of agencies are battling the massive wildfire. It's burning near the town of Neola, about 100 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.

Firefighters from around the country are coming to help fight this fire.

The fire has burned about 15,000 acres. It's at zero percent containment. It took less than 24 hours for this fire to blow up into an inferno, one so powerful it's creating funnel clouds. Strong winds are shifting the flames at a moment's notice, sometimes it's gone right through homes, other times narrowly missing them.

Governor Jon Huntsman toured the fire by helicopter. Once on the ground he wasted no time asking FEMA for any and all assistance. The governor says, "It's about as frightening a site as I've ever seen. I've been to bad parts of Iraq. I've been to bad parts of Afghanistan. This is a frightening sight."

Three Die In Utah Wildfire

The fire has killed three people. George Houston, 63, and his son Tracy Houston, 43, had stopped to help a neighbor set up a sprinkler to protect his home. Tracy's 11-year-old son outran the fire and survived. The homeowner, Roger Roberson, also died. He will be laid to rest on his property, the land he refused to leave. Roberson's son, Roger Roberson's Jr., says, "He said to Rose-Mary, 'I'm not leaving. I'm going to stay here.'"

Three Die In Utah Wildfire

Homes in Whiterocks were evacuated. Jwennith Tahgue and her daughter had 10 minutes to evacuate, to pick what to pack and what to leave. She says, "I just sat there in shock. I didn't even know what I was gonna grab because there was so much that I wanted to grab. So I just grabbed what I needed, like my clothes."

Now they're waiting for the smoke to clear. Only then will they know if their house survived. "Right where we live is nothing but weeds, propane, and stuff like that, says evacuee Maylena Pinnecoosa.

Others not under evacuation orders are still too nervous to stay. "My wife is worried," says an evacuee. He says his wife just wanted to go home and start packing stuff.

With the help of FEMA the governor was able to bring in a Type One team. They are the top people to fight these wildfires. The three towns are Farm Creek, Whiterocks and Tridell.

All evacuees are being asked to call 435-725-4731.

Firefighters will get an early start and will work 16-hour days until the fire is contained.

We looked through our archives and found the last wildfire to kill a Utahn happened just last summer.

Spencer Koyle, a Bureau of Land Management firefighter became trapped when shifting winds fueled flames in the Fishlake National Forest.

BLM officials couldn't immediately say when a civilian last died in a wildfire in Utah.


Related links

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics



Catch up on the top news and features from, sent weekly.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast