Wildfire forces evacuation of hundreds of Utah homes

SPANISH FORK, Utah (AP) — A fast-growing wildfire roaring through dry terrain in Utah has forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes.

People were told to leave three communities near the city of Spanish Fork on Thursday after the lightning-sparked blaze exploded in size to 31 square miles (80 square kilometers). It's also threatening to converge with a second, smaller fire that started further south.

Sparked by lightning in a forested, rough terrain on Sept. 6, the fire raged out of control amid high winds Thursday.

The hot, windy weather could continue through the weekend, KUTV reported.

Lorene Miller told the station that she's lived in the small community of Woodland Hills for 12 years and it was the first time she was forced to leave her home. She loaded up her kids' baby pictures and videos and fled when authorities raised the alarm.

"There's nothing we can do about it but pray, I guess," said Miller, one of hundreds who took refuge at a high-school evacuation center.

The fire has also forced road closures, including U.S. Highway 89.

No homes were reported damaged and the fire was 2 percent contained.

Some 250 people are fighting the blaze, including helicopters and heavy air tankers, but the winds made it hard for the aircraft to take off.

Forest managers have said they decided to contain the fire and let it burn in a remote area to protect firefighters and boost habitat in the area where wildfires are part of the ecosystem.

Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, criticized that decision made during drought conditions — calling it "inept decision making" in a tweet.