A massive wildfire that has swept across two central Utah counties and closed two highways continued to grow over the weekend, officials said.
So far, the Milford Flat Fire has burned an estimated 160,000 acres, or 250 square miles, fire information officer LaCee Bartholomew said.
“The fire laid down a little overnight, but it’s still active,” she said. “We don’t have an accurate updated acreage, but it did grow.”
Officials planned to map the fire with global positioning system technology from the air later Sunday.
Fueled by high winds and bone-dry grasses, the blaze spread more than 40 miles in its first 24 hours, officials said. The fire was triggered by lighting about 4 p.m. Friday and was burning about 120 miles south of Salt Lake City.
About 500 personnel from elite wildland firefighting teams were scheduled to help with the fire on Sunday, Bartholomew said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, has pledged to help Utah cover some of the costs of fighting the fire, Utah Department of Public Safety Director Scott Duncan said.
Also Sunday, the Utah Highway Patrol reopened the 100-mile stretch of Interstate 15 and 25 miles of Interstate 70 that were closed after the fire jumped the highway and poured heavy smoke into the air. Poor visibility from smoke is being blamed for several accidents, including a fatal motorcycle crash that killed two.
Roy Rex Redmon, 68, and his wife Mary Ann Redmon, 65, of Rowland Heights, Calif., were struck from behind and knocked over by a station wagon, which had also been struck from behind by another car, UHP Lt. Steve Winward said.
The wagon then ran over the Redmons and kept driving, Winward said. The Redmons were dead at the scene and police are still trying to locate the driver of the wagon, he said.
The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association said the fire is a dangerous reminder for homeowners that they need to know what their insurance covers and how it works when they are in the path of a wildfire. For homeowners affected by a mandatory evacuation there may be coverage available to them under their homeowners’ insurance policy for out-of-pocket expenses while they are ordered out of their home during a wildfire. Insurance agents should advise their customers to let them know where they are staying, and if they need additional living expenses while they are forced to live elsewhere. This coverage is generally triggered by a mandatory evacuation by a civil authority, such as the sheriff’s department, RMIIA said.
The flames should also sound an alarm for all homeowners: now is the time to help make sure you have the insurance protection you need to rebuild your home and replace your personal belongings. “You do not want to wait until you’re loading up the car on an evacuation order to think about what your insurance does and doesn’t cover,” says Carole Walker, RMIIA executive director. She said agents should remind homeonwers to do an insurance check up of their coverage and create a home inventory.
RMIIA has a coverage checklist on its Web site. For more information, visit www.rmiia.org.
Sources: Associated Press’ Jennifer Dobson, RMIIA
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