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Dollar Ridge Fire drives couple out of cabin built by late father

Posted at 10:03 PM, Jul 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-08 00:05:33-04

DUCHESNE COUNTY, Utah – The Dollar Ridge Fire is driving hundreds out of their homes.

Among some of the first, an elderly couple forced to leave their cabin built by their late father.

“I didn’t ever think it’d be to this point that we’d get a fire like that,” Wally Nelson said, leaning against his pickup truck in a lot in Tabiona.

“I’m actually at a loss right now, I don’t know what to do,” he said.

For 45 years, Wally’s family has owned a quaint piece of land, smack dab in the middle of Timber Canyon.

“It’s peaceful, It’s quiet,” he said describing the land. “It’s a complete different world up here.”

“Always wanted a cabin, I guess it was a lifelong dream,” he added.

25 years ago, he, his dad and his brother made that dream come to life.

“I’d come up and I thought, ‘I ain’t gunna go back home,’” he said.

Eventually Wally’s father was no longer able to take care of the cabin, and Wally and his wife, Olma, have called it their full-time residence ever since.

That same land is now filled with smoke, ash and flames.

“Our ultimate objective is to get this fire out as soon as possible,” Morgan O’Brien with the Dollar Ridge Fire Incident Response Team said.

As of Saturday morning, more than 700 men and women were on the ground, and in the air, fighting this fire with four planes, 42 engines and 11 helicopters.

“The more resources we have available to us the easier that is to do,” O’Brien added.

The fire’s growth has slowed when compared to days prior, with a total of 47,789 acres burned and just 5 percent containment.

“Progress is being made more positive things are happening,” O’Brien said.

“We’ve got a large population working in the pinnacle area,” he said pointing to a large scale paper map.

“We’ve got individuals coming down here and working, we’re trying to get this fire under control.”

Saturday morning, evacuation orders were lifted for residents in zone ‘D3,’ hundreds of others continue to wait.

Including Wally, who now hopes that his father’s memory and home are still there.

“It means a lot, our whole life is there,” Wally said.

“I didn’t want to leave… I guess nobody does, you know?” he added.

Wally was one of the first to be evacuated. He received a pre-evacuation notice around 2:30 in the morning Monday.

“I told them the first time they came in, I wasn’t gunna leave,” Wally said.

Five and a half hours later, he didn’t have a choice.

“They give us three minutes to get our stuff,” Wally said.

“We left everything.”

With only a small box full of papers, a few photos and the clothes on their backs, they left. Leaving behind cars, all of their belongings, photos and memories.

Now they’re calling their son’s trailer home, while they watch as the fire continues to grow.

“I’ve been a basket case since and it’s even worse not knowing,” Wally said.

“It’d be different if they’d say it’s gone, but they can’t even tell us that,” he added.

Now they wait day after day, to find out if their quaint cabin in the middle of it all, is still standing.

“Just wait and hope and pray,” Wally said. “That’s all we can do.”

The last Wally and Olma had been told, it could be at least a month before they know if their home is still standing.

If traveling on Highway 40 near Strawberry Reservoir, fire officials remind people not to stop and take pictures, and to be aware of the 35-mile per hour, reduced speed limit.