CARBON COUNTY, Utah — From her front porch Friday, Gerri Burgess had a front-row seat as firefighters torched the hillside not far from her home.
“It was scary. It was scary,” Burgess said. Just the night before, she watched flames crest the ridge, and begin to work down toward the house her parents bought when she was in sixth grade.
Burgess and her husband started to pack up family photos. They kenneled their four cats and began to wonder how they’d load up their two elderly dogs.
“It was coming over the top last night, and they knocked on the door and told us to be ready to evacuate,” Burgess said, relaying the story to a couple who stopped by her home on Friday. “But it didn’t get to the point that we had to. But we were ready if they came back.”
Many people have been stopping by or texting Burgess and her neighbors to see if they are okay, knowing just how close the Bear Fire burned.
The 8,332-acre lightning-caused blaze shut down U.S. Highway 6 and forced a handful of residents to go on pre-evacuation.
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But on Friday, the weather calmed down significantly, allowing firefighters to back-burn and keep the blaze at bay.
“You could see the firefighters up on the side of the mountain with torches,” Burgess said. She watched as the fire quickly raced uphill.
Not too long later, a helicopter flew overhead, dropping water to keep the back-burn in check.
It’s the strategy firefighters used all along U.S.-6 in order to get the highway open as quickly as possible.
“We have a big concern about the railroad tracks as well,” said Bear Fire public information officer Adrienne Freeman. “So what we’re doing right now is making sure that we keep those transportation corridors open as much as we can.”
She said they had great wind conditions to get the operations done that they had planned, calling it a “big break” on the fire.
“Hopefully we’ll get some good progress on this fire in the next couple of days,” she said.
Burgess hopes so too.
She’s happy that she can, at least, stay in her home — thanks to the work she watched from her house.
“They had it planned really well,” she said of the firefighters. “Yes, fighting fire with fire.”