Na­tional Guard helps bat­tle Utah wild­fire

Los Angeles Times - - Crisis Bell -

her­ri­man, utah — The Na­tional Guard joined forces with fire­fight­ers Tues­day to bat­tle a fast­mov­ing, wind-driven blaze that the Guard ig­nited dur­ing a ma­chine-gun train­ing ex­er­cise.

Utah Army Na­tional Guard Gen. Brian Tar­bet has said he was “deeply sorry” about what he called a “sys­tem­atic fail­ure” at Camp Wil­liams, about 30 miles south of Salt Lake City.

The com­man­der ac­cepted re­spon­si­bil­ity for the wild­fire sparked Sun­day that de­stroyed three houses, dam­aged a fourth and forced the evac­u­a­tion of more than 1,600 homes.

Of­fi­cials said that 450 of the homes re­mained evac­u­ated.

Tar­bet said no one had checked to see that the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice had posted a “red flag” high­wind warn­ing be­fore the ma­chine-gun ex­er­cise was per­mit­ted to con­tinue in tin­derdry con­di­tions in the foothills of the Oquirrh Moun­tains.

He also said Guard com­man­ders waited two hours to call out­side fire agen­cies for help.

Guard Lt. Col. Hank McIn­tire said those re­spon­si­ble would be held ac­count­able.

The Uni­fied Po­lice Depart­ment, an agency over­see­ing Salt Lake County, is en­forc­ing an evac­u­a­tion or­der for parts of Her­ri­man, a com­mu­nity of about 18,000 res­i­dents at the south­west corner of the Salt Lake Val­ley.

“We un­der­stand the frus­tra­tion and how in­con­ve­nient it is to be forced from your home,” Po­lice Lt. Don Hut­son said.

With high winds pre­dicted Tues­day af­ter­noon, seven bull­doz­ers, five aerial tanker air­craft and four Na­tional Guard Black Hawk he­li­copters were sup­port­ing more than 500 fire­fight­ers and guards­men cut­ting fire lines.

Jim Urquhart

CLOSE CALL: This home es­caped dam­age by the fire ig­nited by Na­tional Guard ma­chine-gun train­ing.

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