‘This is a real emergency’ governor warns as wildfires surge south of Provo

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As a pair of fast-growing wildfires south of Spanish Fork torched more than 68,000 acres and an estimated 5,000 people remained evacuated, Gov. Gary Herbert warned conditions could worsen.

“There are hundreds of homes in the pathway of a very devastating fire. If they burn, we will have the biggest loss monetarily in (the history of) the state of Utah,” Gov. Gary Herbert said Friday evening following a meeting with fire officials and local leaders in Spanish Fork.

“This is a real emergency with the potential to be a significant emergency depending on what happens over the next couple of days,” Herbert said, speaking from the Ponderosa Event Center.

The Pole Creek Fire more than doubled in size in a matter of hours following evacuations late Thursday, growing to 54,000 acres on Friday. It is zero percent contained, fire officers announced Friday. The nearby Bald Mountain Fire is burning 14,500 acres.

The fires are now the top two fire priorities in the U.S, officials said. A Type 1 fire crew has taken over command.

So far, only a fence has been damaged in the lightning-caused Pole Creek Fire, but several homes and cabins were threatened, said Sgt. Spencer Cannon, spokesman for the Utah County Sheriff’s Office. Winds died down Friday, slowing the fire’s growth, he added.

Herbert said if winds again pick up, conditions could “become even worse.”

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