Tyler Gerber, 15, left, and his brother Kearn, 14, stand near a four-wheeler they used Wednesday to repair fence on the family ranch after Tuesday’s Sand Fire about 10 miles west of Craig. Tyler saw the blaze soon after it ignited, and he was “praying that it wouldn’t get on our place, but that didn’t happen,” he said. The fire blackened parts of their grazing land but did not damage the family’s home.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Tyler Gerber, 15, left, and his brother Kearn, 14, stand near a four-wheeler they used Wednesday to repair fence on the family ranch after Tuesday’s Sand Fire about 10 miles west of Craig. Tyler saw the blaze soon after it ignited, and he was “praying that it wouldn’t get on our place, but that didn’t happen,” he said. The fire blackened parts of their grazing land but did not damage the family’s home.

Residents reacted to the oncoming Sand Fire on Tuesday

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Tyler Gerber, 15, throws hay to a group of steers on the family ranch Wednesday morning. The Gerbers’ neighbors helped them move their livestock Tuesday night as the Sand Fire moved rapidly across the sagebrush toward their home. Their house was not damaged, and the family was able to return home later Tuesday night.

Quotable

“It looked like the fire was coming right to the house.”

— Izzy Gomez, a resident near the Sand Fire, about what he saw as he tried to protect his home from the blaze Tuesday

Tyler Gerber, 15, was taking out the trash Tuesday night at the family ranch west of Craig when he saw the beginnings of a blaze that would soon threaten their home.

He was “praying that it wouldn’t get on our place, but that didn’t work,” he said.

His father, Wade Gerber, also saw the fire, which was burning west of their house.

He drove closer to investigate, and discovered the wildfire “was a lot closer than we even thought it was,” he said. Rick Barnes, who lives south of where the fire burned, also saw the fire.

The smoke had a reddish tint, “so you could tell it was pretty hot,” he said.

Soon, he and other residents were preparing to leave their homes behind, if necessary.

“When the wind first shifted, it was blowing the smoke and it pretty much engulfed that whole south area … and everybody over there was pretty much getting ready (so that) if we needed to get out of there, we could,” Barnes said.

The Gerbers gathered what they could from their home — their guns, pictures and musical instruments — in preparation for the worst.

“I had my Gibson Les Paul,” Kearn said. “That was the first thing I got out.”

They also had several steers and more than a dozen pairs of cows and calves to think about in the wake of the approaching fire.

But, the Gerbers’ weren’t alone.

Wade’s neighbors helped him move his livestock out of the pasture and across the highway to property owned by his parents, Ervin and Arloa Gerber.

Wade stayed behind with Ervin, and the two used a motor grader and backhoe to build firebreaks around the home.

Meanwhile, Tyler, his brother Kearn, 14, and their mother Tinneal stayed at Ervin and Arloa’s home and “then just kind of waited and watched” before the family was allowed to return home at around 9 p.m., Tyler said.

Down the road, Izzy Gomez also was building a fire break around his home with the help of friends and family as the blaze burned within about a quarter of a mile away.

“It looked like the fire was coming right to the house,” he said.

He and his wife, Chari, and their sons Eli, 6, and Daniel, 3, were told to prepare to evacuate their home, and they were ready to leave if they had to, he said.

The wind changed direction several times, blowing away from their home and then back again toward it.

He stayed up until about 2 a.m. Wednesday, hosing down the ground around the home to prevent the fire from encroaching on it, he said.

“It was kind of mixed emotions all night long,” Izzy said.

He’s grateful for the agencies that responded to the blaze, he said.

“The response time and the way they controlled it was just unbelievable,” he said.

He also came away from the experience with an appreciation for “the way that everybody came together in a time of crisis and were helping each other out,” he said.

“That was amazing and that’s why, I guess, we live in Craig,” he said.

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