SALT LAKE CITY – The U.S. Department of Defense is paying homeowners for losses from a wildfire that started at a Utah Army National Guard base and swept into a Salt Lake City suburb, a military official said Friday.
The Defense Finance and Accounting Service set up shop at Herriman's city hall Friday, five days after machine gun fire at Camp Williams sparked the blaze.
Claims from about 200 people were being paid "on the spot," and more claims were being filed, said Utah National Guard Lt. Col. Hank McIntire.
"This kind of government response is unprecedented," McIntire said Friday. "It's not what people typically expect from the government. We're glad to break that stereotype."
The claims are for fire losses to homes, fences and other property and for expenses from an evacuation that initially kept residents out of more than 1,600 homes, he said.
The wildfire destroyed three houses, damaged a fourth, burned down outhouses and torched vehicles.
Fire officials declared it 100 percent contained around 6 p.m. MDT on Friday. Fire spokesman Jason Curry said crews would remain on site to monitor the area for hotspots and make sure the flames do not return.
Utah Army National Guard Gen. Brian Tarbet has said he was "deeply sorry" about what he called a "systematic failure" at Camp Williams, about 30 miles south of Salt Lake City.
Tarbet said nobody checked to see that the National Weather Service had posted a "red flag" high-wind warning before the machine gun exercise was permitted to continue in the tinder-dry foothills of the Oquirrh Mountains.
Tarbet also said guard commanders waited two hours to call outside fire agencies for help.
Firefighters expected to have the nearly 6-square-mile blaze contained by Friday evening, fire spokesman Jason Curry said.
About 100 firefighters were still patrolling fire lines at Camp Williams and have started to work on erosion control.
National Guard officials have said shrapnel from machine gun fire ignited tinder-dry brush, as often occurs during live-fire training.
The guard had a 5-acre blaze corralled in about two hours, but sudden high winds whipped up flames that advanced on Herriman, a community of about 18,000 in a corner of the Salt Lake valley.