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Published August 14, 2013, 03:43 PM

Utah fire destroys 13 homes near resort town

WANSHIP, Utah (AP) — A small, lightning-sparked wildfire outside the resort town of Park City destroyed more than a dozen homes and threatened hundreds of others, including multi-million dollar vacation homes tucked into the rugged Rocky Mountains.

By: BRADY McCOMBS,Associated Press MICHELLE L. PRICE,Associated Press, Associated Press

WANSHIP, Utah (AP) — A small, lightning-sparked wildfire outside the resort town of Park City destroyed more than a dozen homes and threatened hundreds of others, including multi-million dollar vacation homes tucked into the rugged Rocky Mountains.

The blaze near Park City was among several in the West where fires have devoured dry grass and brush and burned to the edges of small communities.

Shifting winds in Utah pushed the fire toward homes in a subdivision about 10 miles outside Park City. It destroyed a dozen homes on Tuesday, plus another home overnight. Fire officials say it also burned 20 outbuildings and several vehicles and boats.

The fire began near a populated area and quickly grew to more than 1,200 acres, or nearly 2 square miles. Flames were flaring up later Wednesday with rising temperatures and winds. Fire spokeswoman Jennifer Hansen said about 250 homes were still threatened, including those along a golf course in the town of Promotory.

"This was a very unique situation, where we had a lightning strike and within 20 minutes it was up to about 20 acres and it just shot up the hill," said Kevin Callahan, the county's emergency manager. "It was faster than anyone could contain it."

The lighting strike that ignited the blaze shook Kim Alderman's convenience store, with flames visible within a few minutes from the hillside. The fire then spread into two gated communities called Rockport Ranches and Rockport Estates, mostly middle-class homes used as primary residences, said Alderman, owner of the Rafter B Gas N' Grub in Wanship.

Brenda Child was at a nearby lake with her 6-year-old grandson when she saw the flames Tuesday afternoon. She raced home in her car, and ran into the house with her shirt covering her mouth to avoid breathing in the smoke. She grabbed her dog, computer and insurance policy and left. When she was allowed to return Wednesday, she found the 3,000-square-foot house she and her husband moved into three months ago untouched.

"I was absolutely horrified that our house was going to be gone," Child said.

Two helicopters working the fire early Wednesday were expected to be joined later in the day by a pair of Blackhawk helicopters. More than 100 people were assigned to help fight the fire.

Nationwide, there were 35 large active fires burning Tuesday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. All were in the West.

In west-central Utah's Skull Valley, more than 20 structures were threatened by the Patch Springs Fire that covered some 16 square miles and was 15 percent contained. No evacuations had been ordered.

More than 250 firefighters were working to contain the largest blaze in Utah, which has jumped across the border into Idaho. The lightning-caused State Fire has charred almost 36 square miles in steep and rugged terrain. It was 50 percent contained.

Even so, fewer than 3 million acres have been burned by U.S. wildfires this year, NIFC reported, well below the 5.9 million acres that had burned by this time last year and 6.3 million acres that had burned through mid-August in 2011.

In Idaho, fire crews prepared to capitalize on favorable winds and lower temperatures to continue burnout operations around the small mountain community of Pine, where the Elk Complex remained the nation's No. 1 firefighting priority.

The lightning-caused fire had burned across more than 175 square miles and destroyed structures in the community of Fall Creek, fire spokeswoman Ludie Bond said.

A wildfire near Glenwood Springs, Colo., prompted a small number of evacuations Tuesday, Garfield County Sheriff's Office spokesman Walter Stowe said. The Red Canyon Fire was threatening 20 structures and was 10 percent contained Wednesday.

Meanwhile, health district officials in northern Nevada were closely monitoring air quality concerns after a smoky haze from a wildfire in the Tahoe National Forest more than 60 miles away.

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