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Deadly Utah wildfire 50 percent contained

Fire has burned 42,184 acres; evacuation orders lifted.

BY P.J. HELLER | NEOLA, Utah | July 5, 2007

A wildfire burning in rural northeastern Utah grew to more than 42,000 acres Wednesday but firefighters reported they had the blaze 50 percent contained.

Battling the fire in hot and dry conditions - temperatures were in the mid-80s with relative humidity at 9 percent - firefighters said they had managed to contain the entire southern half of the blaze.

The fire had been reported only 20 percent contained at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The cause of the fire remained under investigation.

Evacuation orders were lifted Wednesday morning and residents were allowed to return to their homes in several small communities that had been threatened.

Meals, snacks, water and cleaning supplies were being provided to returning residents by volunteers from The Salvation Army, the Southern Baptist Convention and the American Red Cross.

A total of 877 firefighters were battling the fire, which began Friday about three miles from Neola. The area is about 100 miles east of Salt Lake City. The fire is blamed for the deaths of three civilians on Friday who were killed when the fire overtook them on a farm.

One firefighter was reported injured, suffering a broken leg.

Officials said the fire has destroyed 12 homes and 24 outbuildings.

The fire, which had charred 42,184 acres as of Wednesday night, was burning on private and Forest Service land as well on the Uintah and Ouray Indian reservations. Parts of the Ashley National Forest remained closed to the public.

No date was given for full containment of the fire.

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