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Fire engines, water tankers and semis full of temporary kitchens, shelters, toilets and even showers assembled on the outskirts of town as firefighters from throughout the West arrived Sunday to fight the Mill Flat Fire.

A Type One Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team -- a group of highly trained firefighters brought in to battle wildfires designated as severe -- is being activated to take over a fire roaring out of control in the mountains just west of this residential town in northern Washington County.

The fire has forced the evacuation of about 170 residents and destroyed at least three homes. Sparked by lightning July 25 in the Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness Area was mostly burning through dead vegetation when officials reported its size at 1,200 acres Thursday. But by Saturday, winds sent the fire rampaging, increasing its size to more than 10,000 acres overnight.

Dixie National Forest fire managers initially opted to monitor the fire until concerns about the blaze spreading too rapidly prompted measures to combat it Thursday when weather forecasts predicted high winds and temperatures and low humidity.

The fire continues to burn in areas west and north of the town, threatening 550 homes and 58 commercial properties. A shelter for evacuees has been set up at an LDS church at 50 S. Main St. in nearby Kanarraville.

Among the houses destroyed was one that was on the market for $1 million, Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith said. Three other houses were damaged.

"The siding just melted off one of the damaged houses," said Dean Cox, Washington County emergency services director.

"It came down [Straight] canyon like a fireball," New Harmony City Councilman Dellas Imlay said of the blaze.

Imlay's home wasn't threatened, but his nephew's cattle were in the path of the fast-moving flames Saturday night.

Three boys helped him herd the 30 head of cattle out of a fenced pasture area down to a greener pasture with water, where the flames stopped short. The fire burned trees, haystacks and fences, and Imlay could feel the heat of the fire as he breathed in heavy smoke.

Watching the smoke column grow bigger from a convenience store parking lot off Interstate 15 Sunday, Don and Connie Ondrisko said they too are angry the fire wasn't contained earlier. The couple are waiting to see if their 3,200-square-foot house was still standing on its lot next to the national forest boundary.

Don Ondrisko said when he called the U.S. Forest Service to inquire about suppressing the fire, he was told that there was nothing that could be done because it was burning in a designated wilderness area.

"They said letting it burn would do more good than bad," said Don Ondrisko. "But that's ridiculous, and I'm mad and upset."

Bevan Killpack, Pine Valley District Ranger said suppression efforts were hampered when the wildfire's huge smoke column collapsed Saturday and prevented air drops.

Early Sunday, air tankers were able to dump fire retardant on the blaze, and firefighters worked on problem areas, Killpack said.

Heavy smoke with ash fall from the Mill Flat Fire has dispersed throughout southwestern Utah. Smoke is visible from Cedar City, New Harmony, Pine Valley, St. George and Enterprise. Closures are in place for Mill Canyon, Anderson Valley and Summit trails.

No injuries have been reported due to the fire.

Evacuation orders are mandatory in the most threatened areas, but Smith said his deputies have not had to force anyone from their home and do not plan to.

"I just want people to take personal responsibility," he said.

Evacuees are being asked to check in at the Red Cross temporary regardless of whether they need a place to stay.

"Some people don't need a place to sleep, but may need other services like food, clothing or prescriptions," said Susan Thomas, communications director for the American Red Cross in Utah. "Those are the kind of things the Red Cross can also help with."

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has authorized use of federal funds to help with costs of fighting the Mill Flat Fire.

Where to go

Evacuees are being asked to check in at the Red Cross temporary shelter located at 80 South Main St. in Kanarraville -- regardless of whether they need a place to stay.

"Some people don't need a place to sleep, but may need other services like food, clothing, or prescriptions," said Susan Thomas, communications director for the American Red Cross in Utah. "Those are the kind of things the Red Cross can also help with."

Evacuees may also call the main Red Cross Switchboard at 801-323-7000.

Where to go

Evacuees are being asked to check in at the Red Cross temporary shelter located at 80 South Main St. in Kanarraville -- regardless of whether they need a place to stay.

"Some people don't need a place to sleep, but may need other services like food, clothing, or prescriptions," said Susan Thomas, communications director for the American Red Cross in Utah. "Those are the kind of things the Red Cross can also help with."

Evacuees may also call the main Red Cross Switchboard at (801) 323-7000.

Fighting the Mill Flat Fire

A Type One Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team, which draws a group of highly-trained firefighters from across the U.S., is being brought in to assist.

The team includes 400 firefighters, 30 fire engines, three helicopters, three single-engine air tankers and two large air tankers.

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