Turns out that the military, while doing some machine gun practice, started a fire on the south side of the mountain that our town lives on. Because of strong southernly winds the fire began climbing the mountain and headed north to where our town is. By late evening we could then see the fire's glow reaching the top of the mountain.
I serve as the Community Emergency Response Team leader (CERT) for our neighborhood. So I knew I had to be prepared to help. But seeing a fire running down a mountain towards your neighborhood is quite scary. So to easy our kids and Jen's mind. I sent them to my parents house for the night (voluntary evacuation) and prepared to help with the fire. I got my family out just in time. Because just as night fell, evacuation orders started coming into the selected neighborhoods (not ours yet) and the streets became more crowded than a Chinese traffic jam.
At this time, both Jen and her sisters called as they could not contact another sister who lived in Herriman and was closer to the coming fire. So I ventured forth (On foot since the roads were so congested) to check on them. That became the closest I've ever came to a danger. The closer I got to their home and darker it became. Ash started to get into my eyes and smoke was growing stronger. This part of town had received an evacuation order and people were scrambling to gather up belongings and get out before it was to late.
I found my sister-in-law's place dark and a car missing. Neighbors reported not seeing them all day so I assumed they were elsewhere and safe. Turns out they were visiting family and were trying to return while everyone else was trying to get out. They ended up returning to their family's home to wait and hope that their home would still be standing when they returned. Thankfully it survived but because of some open windows they have a strong smoke smell to contend with.
I returned to my neighborhood and went to a neighbor's house that had a HAM radio. Together we listened to city's communications and watched as the fire kept coming closer and closer to the town. To look at a mountain you look at daily and have it look like an exploding volcano can be a beautiful and scary thing. From a mile away we could see flames that had to be over 20 feet tall.
Hours went by and the fire came closer without anything hindering it. We knew from listening from the emergency communications that there were only 100 firefighters working to save us. Would there be enough?
All eyes focused on large house on the highest point of the mountain. It was rumored to be Jerry Sloan's house and was the first to meet the fire's approach. I was worried that if the entire city watched that home go up in flames, panic would ensue and more people would try to flee making evacuation a living nightmare.
I must admire those fighting the fire because they arrived at the home just as the fire did and was able to save it, twice. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XA18ITjtyw
More evacuations were ordered as the fire began crawling towards us. By 3:30 am it finally had reached the bottom of the mountain and had a clear path towards our homes. But God smiled on us and the winds, which had been strong and forceful all night, changed direction and started pushing the fire back up the mountain where it had already consumed everything. Our town was saved by our hard working fire fighters and answered prayers.
It took a couple of days to get the fire contained enough to allow all the evacuees back in. My family was able to return the next day and we were thankful to have each other and our home safe. It was an experience I hope to never have to go through again, but feel stronger because of it. There certainly is nothing like home sweet home. (Which now smells like smoke. :)