Uintah fire brought out the best in people

Sunday , September 10, 2017 - 4:30 AM


You see it in the aftermath of virtually every hurricane, flood and tornado, and you saw it again last week during the Uintah fire — disasters bring out the best in a community.

A downed power line ignited the fire about 7:15 a.m. Tuesday in the Uintah Highlands. Winds of 30 to 40 mph rapidly fanned the flames, sending the blaze roaring toward wooded neighborhoods.

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Emergency management officials assessed the threat and ordered evacuations. Buses moved children from two elementary schools to safety. A nursing home evacuated its residents. By the end of the day, the fire forced about 1,000 people to flee their homes.

No one panicked. No one complained.

Weber State University opened the Dee Events Center as an emergency shelter. Individuals and businesses made sure evacuees had everything they needed while they waited out the fire.

Initially, the wind kept firefighters from using their helicopters and tankers, but not for long. They fought the fire house to house, drawing water from a swimming pool and a residential pond when they needed it quickly.

A hotshot crew joined the fight, along with 183 firefighters, 32 trucks and four helicopters. James Dunyon said they saved his house.

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“That snorkel helicopter and the other helicopters saved our homes up there,” Dunyon told Mark Saal, a reporter for the Standard-Examiner. “We had a horrible hot spot that was 50 yards to the east of us, and it would have destroyed every home on our street if they hadn’t taken care of it.”

But they couldn’t save every home. The fire was too big, too unpredictable.

Officials said the blaze destroyed 13 structures, including three houses. Sasha Clark, a communications consultant for Weber County, said the fire did an estimated $1 million in damage.

Yet through it all, people put others first.

Dunyon said he stood with a neighbor as the man’s house went up in flames. The family was safe, and thanks to them, so was another neighbor.

“His wife was getting their elderly neighbor out of her home instead of packing their own belongings,” Dunyon said. “People were more important than things to them. That’s the kind of people they are.”

People returned to their homes late last week. Despite the lost homes and damaged property, no one died.

To all who fought the fire, cared for evacuees and assisted neighbors, thanks. As a community, we are grateful.

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