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'My family’s alive': Campers share harrowing story of Jacob City Fire evacuation

Posted at 6:10 PM, Jul 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-11 20:51:38-04

TOOELE COUNTY, Utah — Brian Herrmann, his wife Heather and a group of friends were camping in Soldier Canyon this past weekend for his birthday when they were evacuated due to a fast-growing wildfire.

“I went out [of his camping trailer] to water the dogs and looked out, down the canyon and saw a big plume of black smoke," Herrmann said. "At that point, I knew we were in trouble.

Herrmann then drove down the canyon to get cell reception to report the fire to dispatch. That’s when he ran into a Bureau of Land Management ranger who was driving up Soldier Canyon to evacuate everyone in the area due to Saturday's Jacob City Fire.

“He came in and he told us, 'You’ve got five minutes to get out of here or we’re not getting out of here,'” said Herrmann, who eventually had to leave his trailer behind. “My family was number one — thinking of them, 'How are we going to get out of there if we can’t get out of there?'"

Herrmann and his family drove down the canyon with flames along the road in some spots.

“Seeing that wall of fire out the back window is harrowing, scary,” said Herrmann, who rewatched some of the videos that his family members took as he drove them out of the canyon to safety. “My family’s alive. The material things don’t matter, but I’m grateful they’re all out.”

Later that night, Herrmann was escorted by a local fire crew to retrieve his camper. The area around the campsite had burned, but his camper was safe.

READ: Latest wildfire information from across Utah

They also had a "birthday brisket" in the smoker (which was turned off before evacuating). Herrmann and his family were also able to salvage his birthday meal, which they enjoyed on Sunday.

“I’ve never experienced fire quite like that and never want to experience it quite like that again,” said Aaron Pratt, who was camping with the group. “We’ve seen fires here in Tooele quite a bit, but this was more close and personal than anything we’d ever experienced before.”

He and his wife Elise recently purchased a pop-up trailer, and this was their first time using it. Pratt was able to latch most of his trailer to his vehicle while evacuating from the canyon. He and his group of friends are not only thankful to have all of their belongings and family members safe, but they’re thankful for the firefighters and first responders.

“They were driving up into it as we were rushing away from it, and I’m just forever grateful for what they’re doing for us,” Pratt said.