Firefighters call series of disasters near Levan ‘biblical’

Posted at 5:27 PM, Jul 30, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-30 19:28:59-04

LEVAN, Utah -- Residents of a central Utah town are feeling like they can't seem to catch a break after dealing first with a large wildfire and then with flash flooding and sliding debris.

A wildfire burned 4,000 acres near Levan this month and created a large burn scar; now firefighters and homeowners are dealing with mud and debris as a result.

A 12-mile stretch of highway saw flooding Tuesday night, and flooding is expected again overnight if more rain falls. Homeowners in the area said they have been lucky so far but said the problem isn't something that's going to go away.

David Ulibarri, a public information officer with Unified Fire Authority, said the town's troubles are not the norm.

"You go from fire fighting to flood control in the same day, it doesn't usually happen that way," he said.

Firefighters described the series of disasters as "biblical." The wildfire started near State Road 28 and came close enough to threaten several homes.

"It was not even 20 minutes, and it was coming up over the hill, heading right for us," Rancher Dave Shepherd said.

The fire was exacerbated by high winds and hot weather and burned 4,000 acres. Three days of rainfall led to issues and soaked firefighters.

"They were working in conditions where they go from being very hot and sweaty, to damp and cold and chilly in the same couple-hour period," Ulibarri said.

Several fire crews were stuck overnight due to some of the rain, but officials knew the crews were OK because they could observe the camp fires glowing via infrared.

Shepherd said the presence of the burn scar is troubling.

"It's a constant worry now, there's nothing up there now to hold any rain back," he said.

The flash floods washed out a campground near Shepherd's home and flooded his basement.

Officials said the fire burning near Levan is 72 percent contained, and they said it appears as if the worst is over.