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Hundreds leave their homes behind because of Pole Creek Fire

Posted at 5:49 PM, Sep 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-14 03:09:09-04

SPANISH FORK --  Hundreds of people hectically packed up to evacuate the Woodland Hills, Elk Ridge and Covered Bridge areas in Utah County Thursday, as the Pole Creek Fire burned toward those communities.

At first, the Utah County Sheriff's Office placed the three neighborhoods -- two of which contain a couple hundred homes -- on pre-evacuation notice for most of the afternoon.

Kristen Jorgensen went door-to-door, making sure her neighbors had what they needed in case they evacuated.

"Do you need help with anything to get out?" she asked one neighbor.

She made sure each home had a green sign to place in the window, letting authorities know they were okay.

In Jorgensen's garage, vehicles were packed and ready to go with their valuables.

"We've got pictures of my great grandma and stuff like that, to make sure we take that with us," she said.

Around 6 p.m. sirens echoed across Woodland Hills, as a voice announced on several emergency system speakers that evacuations were now mandatory.

Shanna Daniels was in the middle of packing up her belongings when she heard the sirens. She and a friend taped up boxes and hurried to grab her clothes and run them down to the car.

"I'm actually kind of stressed out," she said. "I have pets, and I'm not sure what to do with them."

Bandi Olsen and her kids loaded up a few vehicles, as friends came to help.

"We are just really hectic," Olsen said. "We're trying to get just what's most precious to us."

She ran into her house and called to her children downstairs.

"Hurry! Get everything out!" she yelled.

Her son had been looking for their family cat. He found the cat and put the animal into a laundry basket covered by a blanket.

"Abbey, you all the get in the kids in car," Olsen said to her daughter. "Drive the suburban down to Salem."

A few minutes later, the family took off.

Fire fighters went home to home, knocking on doors to make sure residents were leaving.

"We're hoping to be out in the next hour," one mother said, to a fire fighter.

"Okay," The fire fighter responded. "We'll all be staged right here for you, if you need anything."

Crews from Provo, Orem and Woodland Hills fire departments assessed several homes, they said to strategize structure protection should the homes need it.

Smoke rose from behind the mountain overhead, and ash began to fall lightly from the sky. Cars, trucks with trailers and campers began to fill the streets, headed down the hill toward Salem.

"We are as ready as we are willing to be, at this point," Kirk Richards said, right before he drove down his driveway.

Olsen walked up to his SUV as he turned onto the street, to say a final goodbye.

"Good luck!" she said, right before Richards pulled away.

Green flags sat posted at the end of each driveway, marking that the homeowner had safely left.

"Not too much to be done," property owner Jeremy Brockbank said. "You just kind of hope it misses you."

The fire has caused closures on US-6. In conjunction with the Bald Mountain Fire, it has also caused the Nebo Loop Road to close. It also forced Nephi City to close its natural gas gate station in Payson canyon.

Dominion Energy has stopped natural gas flow in its pipeline system near Payson and Woodland Hills due to the an encroaching wildfire in Payson Canyon. Dominion Energy Utah spokesman Darren Shepherd says this will help minimize damage to the gas facilities and avoid fueling the flames if the wildfire burns through.

The Utah County Sheriff said the fire has grown to more than 20,000 acres. High winds have prevented help from aerial support. Late Thursday evening, Spanish Fork Police tweeted that "multi-jurisdictional crews are working on the fire are exhibiting a full-suppression, aggressive attack."

The Pole Creek Fire first started on September 6. It was determined to have been caused by lightning, according to authorities.