Firefighters battle intense wildfires in Utah, California

By Associated Press 26 June 2017, 12:00AM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Better weather conditions have limited the growth of a wildfire in Utah that has prompted the evacuation of 1,500 people from hundreds of homes and cabins, officials said Sunday night.

In Southern California, a wildfire broke out after a car crashed on a freeway and prompted evacuations of nearby homes in the city of Santa Clarita.

Utah wildfire Incident Commander Tim Roide said in a statement that Sunday was "a good day for firefighters, who were able to have success securing areas of particular concern, including the many structures affected by the Brian Head Fire."

Firefighters on Sunday put in barriers against the flames and air tankers dropped fire retardant in anticipation of winds coming in from the southwest on Monday, officials said. The blaze, which is being battled by about 1,000 firefighters, covers nearly 67 square miles (174 square kilometers) and is 10 percent contained.

KUTV reported that a few Utah families were allowed back to their homes near the resort town of Brian Head to survey damage and retrieve essential items, but most were left waiting and wondering when they would be able to come home. The fire has also burned in the Dixie National Forest.

Evacuation orders were also issued for nearby mountain communities generally known for weekend getaway homes for Las Vegas residents.

"This is a catastrophic fire, no two ways about it," Garfield County Sheriff Jim Perkins said.

The fire in California started Sunday afternoon in Santa Clarita north of Los Angeles, prompting authorities to shut down all lanes of a highway and send crews to fight the blaze that quickly grew to more than 1 square mile (2.6 square kilometers), fed by tinder-dry brush and driven by winds in stifling heat. One structure was destroyed but authorities did not say if it was a home.

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies were helping residents of some homes evacuate "out of an abundance of caution." The sheriff's office in a statement did not say how many people had been evacuated.

The Utah firefighters could face more challenges on Monday because the National Weather Service warned of critical fire weather conditions with gusty winds, high temperatures and low humidity. There's also a chance for thunderstorms that could add more sparks.

The Utah blaze was accidentally started June 17 by someone using a torch to burn weeds. It intensified over the past week because hot and windy weather conditions fanned the flames.

Authorities on Monday will send a second team of firefighters to help try to put it out. The National Interagency Coordination Center's latest report showed it was the largest wildfire in the U.S.

By Associated Press 26 June 2017, 12:00AM

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