FARMINGTON — East bench residents were keeping their eyes on the mountains near Farmington Canyon late Thursday and early Friday as a wildfire raced north and east, consuming brush and trees, threatening houses and spewing smoke over the area.
About 11:20 p.m. Thursday, the fire, which initially was burning on a mountain south of Farmington Canyon, jumped the canyon and began burning on the mountains to the north.
Flames were as close as 200 feet away from houses in Fruit Heights' Robin Crest Drive, and just before midnight the Davis County Sheriff's Office went door-to-door to ensure all residents were evacuated. The sheriff's office did not know how many houses had been evacuated by Deseret Morning News press time. The American Red Cross was en route to help displaced families, Davis County Sheriff's Capt. Kenny Payne said.
Kathy Jo Pollock, spokeswoman of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, said summer cabins and campgrounds in Farmington Canyon were also being evacuated.
The human-caused blaze started at 4 p.m. Thursday. In 1 1/2 hours, it grew from seven acres to 65 to 100 acres. Smoke prevented an accurate figure Thursday night.
A 33-year-old transient turned himself into police shortly after the fire began, Farmington Police Lt. Shane Whitaker said. He was cooperating with police and was booked into Davis County Jail for investigation of arson.
He is expected to appear in court today, Whitaker said. The man allegedly started the fire with a cigarette lighter. Whitaker said the man was angry about life.
"He indicated he did not have any place to go. He's a transient," said Whitaker. "He wanted to be booked into prison."
About 50 firefighters and personnel were on the scene, including 20 Utah prison inmates trained in wildfires, and two helicopters with water buckets. A BLM airtanker, based in Tooele, was on standby if needed to spray repellent, Pollock said.
"The fire is really moving. This shows the five-year drought. The fuels are dry," Pollock said. "Even with very little wind, something like this can really go."
Before the evacuation, residents said they were ready to leave if needed.
"We packed our pictures and are ready to grab our kids if need be," said Lorraine Gregory.
Brittany Richins was returning home from work Thursday evening when she saw the smoke billowing.
"I realized it was right by our house," she said. "It's really sad to see our mountain black. We hike up there."
Linda Taylor helped build her new own house, which she is planning to move into next week, and she rents another house across the street. Both houses are in the foothills of the burning mountain, and she is nervous.
"We might be out here tonight with our hoses," Taylor said Thursday night.
Fires also continued to burn in southern Utah near Blanding, Loa and Ticaboo.
The Bulldog Fire, which ignited north and east of Ticaboo Wednesday, had scorched some 6,500 acres of the Henry Mountains by Thursday afternoon, Bureau of Land Management spokesman Lisa Reid said. Fire crews had successfully built firelines around some historic mine buildings that had been threatened but were still unable to reach a mountain top where a communications tower is positioned, she said. Should the fire burn the tower, phone service will be cut off to Cainesville.
Fluctuating wind conditions hampered firefighting efforts Thursday by preventing firefighters from attacking safely the fire on the ground, Reid said. Additional fire crews were expected on the scene today.
Twenty miles east near Blanding, the Woodenshoe Fire was reportedly 90 percent contained and holding at 2,710 acres burned, fire information officer John Daugherty said. Crews need a change in the low humidity/high temperature weather in order to get the fire fully contained, he said. Still, the crew size was expected to be reduced today.
And 15 miles north of Loa, the South Mt. Marvine Fire was also holding steady at 254 acres burned, Reid said. Crews had successfully contained the fire within firebreaks thatlines built fire crews, which seemed to have slowed the fire, she said. Crews there were also expected to be reduced today.
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