The Associated Press
NEOLA, Utah (AP) — A wildfire that has scorched about 46 square miles in northeastern Utah and killed three people has prompted the evacuation of hundreds of people from nearby towns and forced authorities to close a national forest to the public.
The fire started Friday morning north of Neola, about 100 miles east of Salt Lake City, and on Sunday morning crews had it about 5 percent contained. The cause had not been determined.
The fire began spreading into the Ashley National Forest Sunday afternoon, prompting federal authorities to close it to public use.
The small communities of Whiterocks, Farm Creek, Paradise and Tridell were evacuated Saturday. Some residents in Tridell had been allowed to return.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said about 300 people are under a mandatory evacuation. Another 150 homes in Dryfork Canyon, about 8 miles northeast of the fire, could be threatened by Tuesday, said Derek Jensen, a FEMA spokesman.
"We are seeing extreme fire behavior and the potential for growth is still there. We haven't had a change in weather or change in fuel type or dryness," said Louis Haynes, a spokesman for the national forest.
At nearby Vernal, there was little wind Sunday, the temperatures hit 95 degrees and midday humidity was only 10 percent, according to the National Weather Service.
Edson Gardner, of Fort Duchesne, went to Farm Creek to evacuate his mother, whose home was burned to the ground.
"It came down the canyon like a herd of horses," he said Saturday. "The sheriff told us we had five minutes to get out."
Uintah County Sheriff Jeff Merrell said buildings had been destroyed but he didn't have a count.