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Herriman blaze indicates fire season has arrived in Utah

By John Hollenhorst | Posted - Aug. 25, 2011 at 6:20 p.m.


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HERRIMAN — It may be a few weeks late, thanks to a wetter-than-normal spring, but fire season has arrived — along with the lightning.

Officials say Wednesday's fire near Herriman shows that things are finally beginning to dry out. The 4½-acre wildfire threw a big scare into homeowners in Hi Country Estates, where nine homes were threatened by the afternoon blaze.

Firefighters remained on the scene Thursday to make sure the fire was out.

Two firefighters witnessed the lightning strike near 13775 S. 7530 West that officials say sparked the blaze. That allowed crews to respond quickly, said Unified Fire Battalion Chief Duane Woolsey.

"They got the right resources here in the right amount of time," Woolsey said.

Robin Bunker was so grateful to firefighters for keeping the fire away from her home that she woke up Thursday determined to help them. Bunker persuaded Smith's and Little Caesars to donate water, ice and dinner for fire crews.

"It could have been so much worse," she said. "They saved three houses (Wednesday)."

Fire officials said preparation kept the fire from spreading to nearby homes. Last spring, fire agencies helped homeowners clear away potential fuel along a hillside. That work ended up slowing the fire's progress, officials said.

"We've done a lot of work as far as thinning and (trimming) trees and trying to get defensible space around some of the homes," Woolsey said.

Officials say the unusually wet spring and cool start to summer pushed the fire season several weeks later into the year.

Today, higher elevations are moist and lush, like early summer.

"We've got more fires because of the lightning, but they haven't grown to be as big as they typically have in August," said Jason Curry, spokesman for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands.

But lower elevations are drying out and getting ripe for action.

"Things look very green, and so it can be a little bit deceptive," Curry said. "People still need to be careful on the benches and in their communities."

Even if there are no more flareups, firefighters plan to be on scene in Herriman on Friday to make sure the fire stays out.

The fire Wednesday destroyed a barn or shed and damaged vehicles and a boat. At least 20 homes were under voluntary evacuation.

Email:hollenhorst@ksl.com

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John Hollenhorst

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