FIRE EVACUATION: Looking back almost one year after Utah County wildfires

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ELK RIDGE, UTAH (ABC4 News) — A bolt of lightning is responsible for starting the 2018 Pole Creek and Bald Mountain wildfires which forced thousands of Utah County residents to evacuate.

Heather Obray says she remembers looking outside her home being able to see the flames, but says she wasn’t too concerned for the safety of her home.

But one September afternoon, Obray says she received the news that she was to evacuate immediately. Getting home from work, Obray learned that she wouldn’t be given long to pack hers and her family’s belongings.

“It kinda felt surreal,” Obray says. “It just didn’t seem like is this really happening. It’s like a movie.”

Her family stayed with extended family for two nights and then spent the next 10 days in a hotel room – not knowing if/when they would return home.

“The longer it went on and the more news coverage there was of it and the more slowly [they] evacuated people, then we thought, ‘This really could be a big deal,” Obray says.

Obray says she’s thought of what she would take if her house were to ever catch fire, but never put much more thought or effort into preparing for the unimaginable.


“I started thinking about the most important things I would want to get out,” Obray says.

The Obray family took irreplaceable items such as important documents, journals, hard drives – leaving behind large furniture and replaceable items and only taking a limited amount of clothing.

Thanks to the efforts of firefighters, the Obray family and everyone else who were evacuated were able to go back home.

Looking back on the last year, the Obrays could have lost everything that was left behind. Rather than focusing on the material items, Obray says she’s learned an important lesson.

“Really things are things and it doesn’t matter, and possessions don’t necessarily matter so much,” Obray says.

Snapping a photo in front of their home before evacuating, Obray says to this day, this is an important reminder.

“I look back at that picture and realize, I was taking what was important to me,” Obray says.

During the time of the mandatory evacuation, Obray says she saw her community rally around those who were evacuated and she personally gained relationships with some of her neighbors she didn’t know too well.

“I think sometimes through hardships or hard things, good things come out of those,” Obray says.

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