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News Story
Updated: 06/13/2018 11:20:14PM

’Like dominoes’: Utah homes burn as wildfires menace US West

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Fire investigators walk among the property destroyed by the fire near Pack Creek, in Moab, Utah, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. A fast-moving brush fire destroyed eight homes in the Utah tourist town of Moab, while more than 3,000 people in Colorado and Wyoming fled multiple wildfires scorching the drought-stricken U.S. West on Wednesday. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

North Logan firefighters clean up after a brush fire in Moab, Utah, on Wednesday, June 13, 2018. A fast-moving brush fire destroyed homes in the Utah tourist town of Moab, while several thousand people in Colorado and Wyoming fled multiple wildfires scorching the drought-stricken U.S. West on Wednesday. (Jeffrey D. Allred/The Deseret News via AP)

A Green River firefighter cleans up after a brush fire near Pack Creek in Moab, Utah, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. A fast-moving brush fire destroyed homes in the Utah tourist town of Moab, while several thousand people in Colorado and Wyoming fled multiple wildfires scorching the drought-stricken U.S. West on Wednesday. (Jeffrey D. Allred/The Deseret News via AP)

Red Cross volunteer Monica Sierra hugs a friend in Moab, Utah, on Wednesday, June 13, 2018. A fast-moving brush fire destroyed homes in the Utah tourist town of Moab, while several thousand people in Colorado and Wyoming fled multiple wildfires scorching the drought-stricken U.S. West on Wednesday. (Jeffrey D. Allred/The Deseret News via AP)

Rick and Becky Carrigan pet their dog, Buster, in Moab, Utah, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. A brush fire that started Tuesday destroyed the couple's home. Several thousand people in Colorado and Wyoming fled multiple wildfires scorching the drought-stricken U.S. West on Wednesday. (Jeffrey D. Allred/The Deseret News via AP)

In this Tuesday, June 12, 2018 photo, smoke of a wildfire covers the Buffalo Mountain area, west of Silverthorne and north of Frisco, Colo. A fast-moving brush fire destroyed homes in the Utah tourist town of Moab, while several thousand people in Colorado and Wyoming fled multiple wildfires scorching the drought-stricken U.S. West on Wednesday. (Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via AP)

The remnants of a home destroyed by Tuesday's fire are seen in Moab, Utah, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. The blaze in Moab, known for its dramatic red rocks, started in a wooded area Tuesday night and quickly spread to homes over less than a square mile, Police Chief Jim Winder said. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Property destroyed by Tuesday's fire is seen in Moab, Utah, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. The blaze in Moab, known for its dramatic red rocks, started in a wooded area Tuesday night and quickly spread to homes over less than a square mile (kilometer), Police Chief Jim Winder said. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Bego Gerhart talks about how the community came together to help with the fire, as he sprays hotspots in the backyard of a home next to Pack Creek, in Moab, Utah, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. The blaze in Moab, known for its dramatic red rocks, started in a wooded area Tuesday night and quickly spread to homes over less than a square mile, Police Chief Jim Winder said. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Property destroyed by the fire in Moab, Utah, near Pack Creek, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. The blaze in Moab, known for its dramatic red rocks, started in a wooded area Tuesday night and quickly spread to homes over less than a square mile, Police Chief Jim Winder said. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Property destroyed by Tuesday's fire is seen in Moab, Utah, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. The blaze in Moab, known for its dramatic red rocks, started in a wooded area Tuesday night and quickly spread to homes over less than a square mile, Police Chief Jim Winder said. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Firefighters from Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands work on hot spots from yesterday's fire in Moab, Utah. Wednesday, June 13, 2018. A fast-moving brush fire destroyed eight homes in the Utah tourist town of Moab, while more than 3,000 people in Colorado and Wyoming fled multiple wildfires scorching the drought-stricken U.S. West on Wednesday. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

A wildland firefighter works to contain the flames at the Buffalo Fire site Wednesday, June 13, 2018, near Silverthorne, Colo. As of 10:45 am Wednesday, the 91 acre fire is 0 percent contained but no homes were damaged. (Hugh Carey/Summit Daily News via AP)

In a June 12, 2018 photo, a large helicopter looks for a spot to make a water drop on a wildfire in Hermosa, Colo. The fire, burning 23 miles northwest of Durango, started June 1 and has burned over 22,000 acres. (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via AP)

By COLLEEN SLEVIN and LINDSAY WHITEHURST

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DENVER (AP) — A fast-moving brush fire destroyed eight homes in the Utah tourist town of Moab, while more than 3,000 people in Colorado and Wyoming fled multiple wildfires scorching the drought-stricken U.S. West on Wednesday.

The blaze in Moab, known for its dramatic red rocks, started in a wooded area Tuesday night and quickly spread to homes over less than a square mile (kilometer), Police Chief Jim Winder said. Crews were extinguishing embers Wednesday.

Moab residents Tim Clark and his girlfriend Tina Saunders grabbed their dogs, family photos and a laptop, evacuating with their home in flames.

“Those houses just started going like dominoes,” Clark told the Salt Lake Tribune . “Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!”

Police said the early investigation has ruled out natural causes for the blaze that ignited near a creek that is frequently used as a walkway in a largely blue-collar neighborhood. It was not near the tourist-heavy areas in the town known for its proximity to Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

Moab resident Shane Tangren told the newspaper that he arrived home from work Tuesday evening to find flames nearby. He was trying to protect the house he’s lived in since he was 16 by wetting it down, but the wind shifted and sent the flames barreling right toward him. He fled.

“I sat there and watched it burn to the ground,” Tangren, 55, told the newspaper. “Everything — photographs, birth certificates, memories — it’s all gone. My first car — that was a 1970 (Pontiac) GTO. Up in flames. I bought it when I was 15.”

In Colorado’s mountains, residents have evacuated more than 1,300 houses — condos, apartments and pricey homes — as flames threatened an area known for its ski resorts. Firefighters, with help from aircraft, got a quick jump on a fire near Silverthorne after it was reported Tuesday and have managed to keep it from spreading beyond about 91 acres in heavy timber, including trees killed by pine beetles.

Summit Fire Chief Jeff Berino said Wednesday night that lightning did not play a role in the fire and that “some type of human element is probably likely” as a cause.

Across the state, Colorado’s largest fire has burned about 43 square miles (111 square kilometers) over nearly two weeks. Residents could go back to about 180 homes no longer threatened at the northern edge of the fire Wednesday, but others remained out of more than 1,900 houses.

The blaze about 13 miles (43 kilometers) north of Durango is in the Four Corners region where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah meet and which is in the middle of a large swath of exceptional drought. Much of the U.S. West is experiencing some level of drought.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said the rapid response from emergency crews has helped prevent a repeat of devastating wildfires in 2012 and 2013. Years ago, he said fire departments were hesitant to commit resources to fighting every fire, and launching a coordinated response to a major blaze could take up to two days.

Hickenlooper said better coordination has cut down on delays, and the state reimburses local departments for initial response costs, in an attempt to control a blaze before it can spread.  

“We learned a lot from the disasters, the fires we had in 2012 and 2013,” Hickenlooper told reporters. 

Meanwhile, a wildfire in Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest doubled in size over 24 hours, burning about 8 square miles (21 square kilometers). Nearly 400 seasonal and permanent homes have been evacuated because of the fire near the Colorado border.

The fire has destroyed some structures, but investigators have not said how many or what type.

The situation was better in central Washington, where authorities lifted evacuation orders or warnings for about 50 residents as crews work to contain a wildfire burning grass and brush.

Officials said one small outbuilding was lost but no injuries have been reported.

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Whitehurst reported from Salt Lake City. Associated Press writers Bob Moen in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Brian Eason and Thomas Peipert in Denver contributed to this report.


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