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In one cul-de-sac in Herriman, all it took to save a neighborhood were a couple of brothers with garden hoses.

And the neighbors want to know why firefighters weren't there.

The fire that scorched about 4,300 acres began Sunday afternoon at Camp Williams during an ill-advised live-fire machine gun exercise on a hot, windy "red flag" day.

When fire bosses ordered evacuations from Herriman, Jim Conforti helped his wife gather their son, three cats and a few necessities and sent her to off to Grandma's house. He stayed, and with the help of friends, collected photos, sentimental belongings and a stuffed shark and penguins for his 2-year-old boy.

Jim's family lives in the Rosecrest neighborhood, and around the cul-de-sac, everybody pitches in for impromptu barbecues and borrows Jim's new tractor to move boulders and topsoil.

"We've got liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, Mormons, not, D's and R's — arm in arm," Jim wrote in an online comment on a Tribune story Tuesday. "We just avoid politics at our neighborhood BBQs."

Sylvan Olsen, who lives with his daughter's family, told me about the chukkars, magpies, bluebirds and robins that drop by for a bite of the grain scattered in the backyard. Bucks stop in for an apple.

As for the people, he says, "They're fantastic."

That Sunday evening, those neighbors waited for firefighters to arrive. Sylvan's son, Jon Olsen, says he saw a firefighter in a utility truck pull up. She checked out the fire coming down the mountain and said, "We're out of here. This neighborhood cannot be saved."

Well, the fire was racing down the hillside in a "bright orange line, 50 feet high," Jim says.

It was moving about 50 mph, hot and powerful, with little twisters dancing in the middle. Just then, though, the wind shifted and the fire took another tack.

"We all got lucky," Jon says.

By about 9 p.m., the neighbors left as ashes hovered in the smoke like snowflakes. Jon and Troy Olsen walked to the top of the cul-de-sac, rolled out their garden hoses and started spraying.

Two homes were closest to the scrub brush just yards away, and the brothers concentrated on them. They stayed into Monday's early hours. Eventually, they left, so blackened with soot and smoke that they looked like coal miners, Sylvan says.

On Wednesday, Jim pointed out where Jon had stopped the fire about 8 feet beyond a boulder retaining wall and about 20 feet from his home. Same thing with another house.

But they all still wonder why firefighters weren't there on Sunday.

Brad Taylor, a UFD spokesman, explained it took time to get resources, which came from all over the valley, in place and organized.

"People said, 'I never saw you guys.' Well, there's miles and miles of fire line, and initially, just 12 trucks. It's a big stretch of territory, but everything was working."

As for the firefighter who checked out Rosecrest and deemed it doomed, Taylor said he hadn't heard of it and did not know who it might have been.

He did say that when this Machine Gun fire has been put to rest, all involved will hold a briefing on " what went well, what went bad and how to fix the bad."

For his part, Jim said he'd told Mayor Josh Mills that if there's a civilian award for heroism, Jon should get it "because he risked his life to save these homes."

Everything was quiet in Rosecrest on Wednesday afternoon, even as the smell of charred brush lingered in the air.

Said Sylvan: "The chukkars came back this morning."

Peg McEntee is a columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@