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Neola Fire Burning Away from Homes

Neola Fire Burning Away from Homes

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Alex Cabrero ReportingSeveral homes have been scorched in the large wildfire burning near Neola, but now crews say no more homes are threatened.

Evacuation orders that are still in place will be lifted tomorrow morning. While that's good news, there is still a lot of work to do.

It appears people and homes are no longer in immediate danger of this fire. But animals are, and that's something animal control officers are working on.

Rick Bell is the director of Uintah County's Animal Control Office. Bell and his staff have pretty much been going non-stop since Saturday. Mainly ranchers have been evacuated from homes, and they are wondering if their animals are OK. That's where Bell comes in; he goes and checks on the animals.

In many cases, fences have burned down and animals have gotten out. In one area, a small herd of cattle was wandering on the road looking for grass that isn't burnt.

Bell checks the branding, and then he calls the owner to let them know the cows were found. Bell brings food and water to the animals. It is a lot of work for a community that is mainly farming. Bell says, "You know, the first couple of days we had basically two people on the phone almost steady; taking calls, people concerned about pets, livestock, those type things. Now I think we're, we've got it narrowed down."

Bell also says residents in Duchesne, Vernal, Roosevelt, and others have donated things like water, hay and feed to those ranchers so they are not entirely put out.

So far, about $1.5 million has been spent to fight the Neola fire, and it's only 10 percent contained. Governor Huntsman says, "It's going to be a very, very expensive fire. I don't think there's any question about that."

Huntsman took another tour of the area this afternoon. Firefighters are in their fourth day of trying to put it out.

In fact, Governor Huntsman flew over the burned areas today and the areas still burning to get a sense of just how much devastation has already taken place. The governor is comparing this fire to the fires and floods in St. George from a couple of years ago. He says like in those cases, the state of Utah is ready to help. Huntsman says it's hard to imagine just how big 35,000 burned acres are until you see them from above.

Flames are still burning out of control to the north in the Ashley National Forest; that is away from homes in the east and south. There isn't much left where the fire burned. Homes are burned and everywhere you look is blackened. The governor says it shows just how strong a fire this size is. Huntsman says, "It's a frightening sight, and it really is an example of the vagaries and dangers of Mother Nature. I can see very clearly a difference today versus when I was here flying it on Saturday." The governor says it looks much better today than Saturday.

Today we have seen some signs of rebuilding. Line crews were putting new telephone and power lines into place, and crews soon hope to have evacuated residents back home, too.

Fire commander Kim Martin says, "Well my goal, objective is to try to get those folks in as soon as possible. Once I get the green light from my firefighters, my operations people, then we'll get the word to those people and get them back in."

So far, it's taken about 700 firefighters to do this job, and more are on the way. The good news, again though, is that the flames are heading north into the Ashley National Forest, away from homes that are located in the south and in the east.

Fire crews say that the evacuation order for Whiterocks has been lifted. Whiterocks is just north of Neola. That town was under an evacuation order, but residents are able to return home. But people who live in Farm Creek and areas north, that evacuation is still in place. Fire officials say evacuated areas to the north of Whiterocks will be lifted tomorrow morning at 8:00, which means residents can go back home tomorrow morning.


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