Families Return To Small Utah Communities Close To Wildfire

Wednesday, July 4th 2007, 4:06 pm
By: News On 6

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ An evacuation order was lifted for a string of small northeastern Utah communities on Wednesday while firefighters made significant progress to tame a wildfire that has burned nearly 66 square miles.

``Mother Nature can be pretty cruel,'' said Lynn Robb, who found his house destroyed by the fire that has burned down 11 other homes and killed three people since Friday.

``It's made me realize there are friends and family _ that's all you've got,'' he told Salt Lake City TV station KSTU. ``Everything can be replaced except friends and family.''

The fire is burning on public and private land, including parts of the Ashley National Forest, 100 miles east of Salt Lake City. It grew to 42,184 acres, or 65.9 square miles, from 39,553 acres, but was 50 percent contained Wednesday night, spokeswoman Marian Swinney said.

There are more than 700 firefighters and other personnel working the fire, at a cost of $2.8 million.

Single-digit humidity and temperatures in the 90s were predicted, unfavorable conditions when trying to suppress a fire.

Meanwhile, a new wildfire was sparked Tuesday night in the Wasatch Mountains in Sandy, a Salt Lake City suburb. No homes were threatened.

Nearly 70 firefighters were on hand Wednesday, aided by two helicopters dropping water, said Kathy Jo Pollock of the U.S. Forest Service. The 55-acre fire was 30 percent contained.

Authorities believe the fire was caused by human activity, Pollock said, noting there has been no lightning for weeks and neighbors saw people in the area.