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Residents evacuated from southern Utah wildfire return home

Posted at 9:01 PM, Jun 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-19 23:31:26-04

ENTERPRISE, Utah — Crews continue to battle the Flatt Fire in Enterprise, roughly 40 miles west of Cedar City.

The fire is currently estimated at 10,000 acres, and it forced nearby residents to evacuate their homes. The fire grew quickly Friday due to the extreme drought impacting the area and gusty conditions.

Officials lifted the evacuation order Saturday morning, but it was still a roller coaster of emotions for families as they watched flames get closer and closer to their homes. Many expected to lose everything.

READ: Tracking the latest on Utah's wildfires

The Rowley family watched as smoke quickly filled the air around their house.

"I started, you know, getting things together and my kids were still playing in the pool and having fun because we didn't know for sure if it was coming," said Heather Rowley.

The initial evacuation order was voluntary, so the Rowleys decided to wait things out for conditions to improve. But things quickly changed as gusts began to pick up.

"Before we got evacuated, there [were] ... fire tornadoes going on," she added. "In the billowing smoke you could see it spiraling up and going crazy."

The voluntary evacuation became a mandatory evacuation, and the nightmare situation became even worse as the Rowleys had to evacuate a litter of newborn golden retrievers.

"They're four weeks old and we have eight of them," Rowley said. "They did really great."

At one point, flames were just a couple hundred feet from their home.

"From our barn, oh, probably 150, 200 feet," said Luke Rowley.

"It was huge," Heather Rowley added. "Lots of black smoke lots of billowing clouds, we couldn't see any flames yet, but it was covering a big chunk of the horizon."

The family and their dogs spend the night outside of Enterprise High School in their motor home. Saturday morning brought good news as crews established containment lines and the evacuation order was lifted.

"I was happy that we got all the cattle out and we got the animals," Heather Rowley said. "Now we can go back and just get a little bit cleaned up."

Happy to be home, the Rowley's invited all their neighbors over for a celebratory breakfast.

"We had to have compassion for them and work together to help them," she added.

Crews were able to set up containment lines around the fire Friday night and Saturday morning. As of now, the Flatt Fire is still considered 0% contained. A red flag warning was in effect until 9 Saturday night as fire crews feared gusts would pick up, and some lightning was forecast for the area.

Infrared flights will fly over the blaze Saturday night, which will help crews determine a more accurate number of how many acres have burned so far. The newest information is expected to be released Sunday morning.