LEHI, Utah — Fireworks caused a wildfire in Utah that forced out residents of houses and an apartment building early Sunday before crews managed to turn back the blaze as it encroached on a neighborhood, officials said.
A suspect was cooperating with law enforcement, Utah Fire Info said in a tweet. Fireworks are prohibited in the area. Strong wind gusts had been reported in the Lehi area as the Traverse Fire grew to about 450 acres (200 hectares), the agency said.
It died down significantly midday Sunday. However, more strong winds were forecast and some evacuations would remain in effect until the threat of the fire flaring up again had passed, officials said.
Photos showed the fire erupting in the background of a residential area and behind a large church. Evacuations were ordered in Lehi and Draper.
About 20 homes were in imminent danger when crews first arrived. Early morning rain helped tamp down the flames and no structures were considered threatened by midday, Lehi Fire Chief Jeremy Craft .
The fire-scarred hillside above the community is now at increased danger of mudslides, he added. That could threaten houses if heavy rain occurs before the vegetation can grow back, Craft told the Deseret News.
A high school gym in Lehi and a middle school in Draper were offered as shelters, according to tweets from the cities.
No injuries and only minor structural damage were immediately reported. The Red Cross said the Draper shelter was closed after about 40 people who sought assistance were no longer there.
Dangerous fire conditions were forecast for Sunday afternoon through Monday across parts of Utah. Projected gusts of up to 50 mph (81 kph) and low relative humidity levels mean any fires that start could rapidly spread.
Rocky Mountain Power tweeted that about 7,500 customers lost power.
Lehi is about 28 miles (45 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City.
Craft told the fire started at an “opportune” time of high fire risk. Fireworks are prohibited in the area.
“Super dry fuels, all of the sudden we get kind of a dry wind storm that comes in, and this thing was explosive,” the fire chief said. “It’s unfortunate that this incident happened. It caused a lot of people a long, sleepless night.”
In the meantime, a wildfire northwest of Reno had burned nearly 5 1/2 square miles of grass and brush as of Sunday with only 10% containment, but some of the evacuation restrictions have been lifted.
About 400 people were evacuated by Saturday evening by the Poeville Fire that destroyed at least eight structures including a few homes and some outbuildings.
Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District officials said the blaze was burning on the east side of of Peavine Mountain and its cause was under investigation.
Washoe County Sheriff’s officials said evacuation restrictions were lifted at noon Sunday for the Horizon Hills area in the North Valleys of Reno.
Evacuation orders remain in effect for residences in Raleigh Heights and other areas including a mobile home park west of Golden Valley and all businesses north of Lemmon Drive and southwest of U.S. 395.
The county remains under a red flag warning until 11 p.m. Sunday due to gusty winds and dry conditions.
A federal incident management team was expected to take over the fire at some point Sunday, bringing in more firefighters and other resources.
About the photo: The Traverse Fire burns behind homes in Lehi, Utah, Sunday, June 28, 2020. Officials say fireworks caused the wildfire and forced evacuations early Sunday morning. (Justin Reeves via AP)
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