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SCOFIELD RESERVOIR -- Powerful winds blew another government-managed fire out of control Sunday night and forced a mandatory evacuation of cabins near Scofield Reservoir.
For two months, the blaze had been quietly smoldering its way through 2,700 acres of overgrown forest, just as the government agencies intended. Sunday night, it blew up.
Dale Green is one of about 50 owners of summer cabins in the fire area; they were declared off-limits overnight. He watched helplessly as a battle of choppers and water drops raged above his cabin.
It's a prescribed fire, deliberately ignited in June by federal and state agencies. They allowed it to smolder for two months.
"We keep hearing that there's no concern, and there's people watching it and everything, but I guess the wind last night must have kicked up some embers and got the whole thing started again," Green said.
At the moment of greatest danger overnight, flames came within one-tenth of a mile of cabins.
‘Firefighters on the scene were able to stop the fire before it entered the subdivision," said Jason Curry, with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
Some campers were ordered out of the fire zone; others were caught crossways. Gina Lund made the mistake of leaving camp to go to town.
"I came back and they told me I can't go back up; and my husband and my trailer and my dogs are up there, and I can't go back up there," Lund said.
Firefighters set up a base camp on the shores of Scofield Reservoir, settling in for a fight they didn't envision two months ago.
"Yes, it's no longer being considered a prescribed fire. It is a wildfire. We're going for full suppression, and the crews won't be going anywhere until it's completely out," Curry said.
With two big government-managed fires now out of control and threatening homes, it has put environmental experts and government bureaucrats on the defensive. Still, they make a strong case for their tactics.