A fast-moving brush fire destroyed eight homes in the Utah tourist town of Moab, while more than 3,000 people in Colorado and Wyoming fled multiple wildfires scorching the drought-stricken U.S. West on Wednesday.
The blaze in Moab started in a wooded area Tuesday night and quickly spread to homes over less than a square mile (kilometer), Police Chief Jim Winder said.
He said the early investigation has ruled out natural causes for the blaze that ignited near a creek that is frequently used as a walkway in a largely blue-collar neighborhood. It's not near the tourist-heavy areas in the town known for its proximity to Arches and Canyonlands national parks.
Moab resident Shane Tangren told the Salt Lake Tribune that he arrived home from work Tuesday evening to find flames nearby. He was trying to protect the house he's lived in since he was 16 by wetting it down, but the wind shifted and sent the flames barreling right toward him. He fled.
"I sat there and watched it burn to the ground,'' Tangren, 55, told the newspaper. "Everything — photographs, birth certificates, memories — it's all gone. My first car — that was a 1970 (Pontiac) GTO. Up in flames. I bought it when I was 15.''
In Colorado's mountains, residents have evacuated more than 1,300 houses — condos, apartments and pricey homes — in an area known for its ski resorts. Firefighters, with help from aircraft, got a quick jump on the fire near Silverthorne after it was reported Tuesday and have managed to keep it from spreading beyond about 91 acres in heavy timber, including trees killed by pine beetles.