Maeser Highway Fire near Vernal 30% contained

Posted at 3:25 PM, Jun 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-10 21:57:09-04

UPDATE: The Maeser Highway Fire near Vernal has been remapped, and officials have revised their estimate of burned acreage from 2,500 down to 885 acres. The fire is 30% contained as of Saturday night.

Officials say heavy smoke and difficult topography made it difficult to determine the true size of the fire until a flyover Saturday night, when the smoke began to clear.

While an evacuation order for a nearby subdivision was lifted Friday night, residents in the Yellow Hills and Painted Hills subdivisions are encouraged to remain alert and be prepared to evacuate should fire conditions change.

A small outbuilding in an industrial area was destroyed by the fire.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, and eight engines, one dozer and about 120 fire personnel are working to contain the fire. They are being assisted by air resources.

Fire officials say hot, dry and windy conditions will continue Sunday, and they urge all residents in the Uintah Basin to use extreme caution when using items with the potential to spark a fire.

Previous story continues below:

UINTAH COUNTY, Utah -- Firefighters in Uintah County are working to contain a wildfire that has been burning since 2 p.m. Friday.

The fire began adjacent to State Route 121 and quickly grew, prompting homes to be evacuated near the town of Maeser.

As of Friday night the fire was moving away from the homes, but the wind is so strong and unpredictable the fire could change direction at any moment.

People in the Painted Hills neighborhood were taking matters into their own hands, hosing down their yards and doing everything they could to protect their property.

The community is under an evacuation watch. Earlier in the day, more than 100 homes were evacuated in the Yellow Hill neighborhood. That evacuation has since been lifted.

Although the evacuation has been lifted, fire authorities are encouraging residents to remain on alert and be prepared for evacuation in case the fire conditions change.

According to the US Forest Service, approximately 2,500 acres of brush have burned as of Saturday morning.  Fortunately, no structures have been damaged and these residents hope to keep it that way.

"We took precautions and had a water truck on site in case we needed to hose the house down," said Jeff Norton of Maeser. "Since we've been watching it's been pretty scary because the wind has been in and out, so it's been changing a lot."

The US Forest Service has no time table as to when the fire will be contained.

"This is the toughest element we fight when fighting fires because the wind can drive a fire rapidly in these types of conditions, we are expecting to have these same kinds of conditions the next couple of days so that's really going to challenge firefighters," said Don Jaques with the US Forest Service.

Community fire departments from nearby Vernal, La Pointe and Maple have been called in to help. There are currently eight engines, one dozer, and nearly 120 firefighters working on the fire, along with additional aircraft resource.

So far the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Experts say recent hot weather and windy conditions make conditions in much of Utah ripe for wildfires.