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Families that fled Utah fire returning home

Blaze that killed 3 and leveled a dozen homes is half contained.

July 05, 2007|From the Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Families in a string of small communities in northeastern Utah returned home Wednesday while hundreds of firefighters made significant progress in taming a wildfire that has burned nearly 66 square miles.

"Mother Nature can be pretty cruel," said Lynn Robb, who found his house destroyed by a fire that has burned down 11 others and killed three people since Friday.

"It's made me realize there are friends and family -- that's all you've got," he told Salt Lake City station KSTU-TV. "Everything can be replaced except friends and family."

The Neola North fire was burning private and public land, including parts of the Ashley National Forest, 100 miles east of Salt Lake City. The blaze was 50% contained Wednesday night, spokeswoman Marian Swinney said.

More than 700 firefighters and other personnel were working the fire, including 100 Utah National Guard members assisting with roadblocks and other duties. The cost so far: $2.8 million.

A funeral was scheduled for today in Roosevelt, Utah, for fire victims George Houston, 63, and son Tracy, 43.

Organizers of Neola's Fourth of July celebration talked to the Houston family before deciding to go ahead with three days of barbecues and rodeos. More than $3,000 had been collected for the victims.

The rodeo grounds in Neola are next to where firefighting efforts are based.

"They wanted us to go on," Carrie Murray, a member of the Neola park board, said of the Houstons. "For the community, we needed it to heal .... I think we did the right thing."

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