Homeowners scramble to remove belongings from wildfire zone

Jul 4, 2018, 10:11 PM | Updated: 10:47 pm

FRUITLAND, Utah – Dozens of evacuated residents in Duchesne and Wasatch County have been waiting for updates and hoping that their homes and cabins will stay safe from the destructive flames of the Dollar Ridge Fire.

The fire ignited Sunday, and has grown quickly. As of the last update, the human-caused wildfire had consumed more than 35,000 acres. It has forced evacuations and the closure of U.S. Highway 40.

While there was a mandatory evacuation in place in Fruitland, several people in neighboring communities were also getting out.

KSL talked with one of them about that tough decision.

It’s a decision that has become even tougher when loved ones may not see the situation the same way.

Todd Baker said he lives just outside the mandatory evacuation area in Fruitland, but it was close enough that he didn’t want to take any chances.

He spent the day packing up his belongings and helping spray down some areas closer to the fire.

The trouble was, he said, was what he’s doing is voluntary, and not everyone sees it the same way he does, which can be troubling when the rising smoke looks not so far away.

“I’ve been watching that smoke just – some of the reds in the clouds and everything – it’s just scary,” Baker said.

He said his mother did not want to evacuate.

“She doesn’t want to leave,” he said.” I’m like, ‘Mom, if that thing jumps the highway, I want you out of here.’”

People inside the evacuation area, south of U.S. 40, did get a few hours to go back in and grab belongings Wednesday morning. The road was then shut down again.

There were the people who live here full time, who of course have more at stake. There were also people who had to come from far away to clear out their cabins or camping areas before that section of Fruitland was closed off again.

Mitzi Colleni and husband, Joe, did their best to clear out their private camping spot before time ran out.

“Coming from Ogden, and they only gave me until 1 p.m., so yeah, it’s pretty hectic,” she said.

They scrambled to hitch up a camp trailer and to fill two pickups.

“I’m just thankful that they’re letting us back in, and I hope everybody makes it,” Colleni said.

Just a short walk from their property, and you can see the smoke, seemingly moving closer.

“The thought of all the trees burning up… it just destroys me,” she said.

They were able to move a trailer, a three-wheeler and some generators. Nearly out of space, they decided to head out, just about 10 minutes short of their one-hour deadline.

“Yeah, it’s really awful, but what can you do?” Mitzi said.

A few miles away, Vince Isbell and his crew did what they could to protect a non-denominational monastery where they handle facility needs.

“It’s a multi-million dollar complex, and this is the lower campground. This was the least of our worries. The main worry is the complex up top, and all of the buildings we have up there,” he said.

With the water pressure strained, there was not much more they could do.

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