NEW HARMONY, Utah – Fresh teams of firefighters moved in Tuesday to help crews that worked through the night to save this small town in southwestern Utah from a shifting 16,000-acre wildfire.
Some residents of New Harmony (search) were being allowed to return home. Others among the several hundred evacuees were allowed to check out their houses.
"I've got nothing but kudos for the fire department," Emily Jones said on a visit. The fire stopped within 50 feet of her home.
"God was looking out for us," she said.
Elsewhere in the state's southwestern corner, a lightning storm started two new wildfires. The town of Motoqua (search), a cluster of 12 homes about 25 miles west of St. George, was placed under a one-hour evacuation order as flames moved to within 1 1/2 miles of city limits.
Emergency officials said they were working on an evacuation plan for the town's 30 residents.
At New Harmony, about 30 miles northwest of St. George, the edge of the brush and grass fire came within a mile of some homes. But no buildings had been lost in the community about 280 miles south of Salt Lake City (search).
Farther south, a fire near St. George, which began almost a week ago as five smaller blazes and then grew into one, was 90 percent contained. The 68,264-acre fire was expected to be fully contained by Tuesday night, said fire spokesman Dave Olson.
The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said Tuesday that 21 large fires had burned more than 769,000 acres in Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
In Nevada, a 33,500-acre wildfire that had blanketed Las Vegas with smoke and prompted the evacuation of a Boy Scout camp was nearing containment. But elsewhere in the southern part of the state, firefighters dug in as a buffer narrowed to 10 miles between a railroad town and two big fires in an uninhabited area that is home to desert tortoises.
Hundreds of firefighters worked to stem flames in mountains south of Caliente, while others protected a Union Pacific Railroad line through Meadow Valley, 50 miles north of Las Vegas.
David Chevalier, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman, could not provide acreage figures but said not all the area within the rugged and remote 628-square-mile fire zone was burned.
"It's sporadic," he said. "It burns in irregular patterns."
Some firefighters reported seeing federally protected desert tortoises that survived flames sweeping across cheatgrass, sage, mesquite and Joshua trees, Chevalier said.
Arizona's biggest blaze, about 30 miles north of Phoenix, had grown to 124,000 acres Tuesday, but it was burning away from populated areas that had been threatened by the lightning-sparked fire. It was 25 percent contained, fire officials said.