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Thread: Utah-2005

  1. #1
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    Talking Utah-2005

    Summit county Gears up for Fire Season. Hires full timer Warden:

    County prepares for wildfire

    By Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

    Gearing up to battle wildfires, the Summit County Commission hired a fire warden full time and voted 2-1 to contribute money to a state-managed insurance fund to assist Utah counties with firefighting costs.
    Expensive mountain homes result in high wildfire exposure in Summit County, which ponies up roughly 25 percent of the fund's statewide contributions each year, according to Summit County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme, who cast the dissenting vote.

    "I just don't think that we're going to get the support from this group that we ought to have," Woolstenhulme said. "For us to pay 25 percent it just doesn't add up."

    Summit County Auditor Blake Frazier claims the county should self-insure against wildfire with money reserved for a "rainy day."

    "If it just all turns into lip service then next year we could go in a different direction," County Commissioner Bob Richer said. "I would look at this as kind of our eviction notice."

    The Summit County Commission made Summit County Fire Warden Bryce Boyer a full-time employee this week. Photo by Grayson West/Park Record





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    Meanwhile, commissioners will lobby legislators to administer the fund more equitably.

    "I personally think it is an incorrect decision," said Frazier.

    The cost of fighting a catastrophic wildfire in Summit County can quickly reach millions of dollars, much of which would be covered by the fund. By choosing not to contribute, however, the county could cut its state assistance in half.

    "It's always a painful decision each year to renew this agreement," said Kevin Callahan, Summit County Public Works administrator.

    But he cautioned commissioners against "rolling the dice" because the federal government has dramatically decreased its support for local governments fighting wildfires.

    "Our county's been particularly lucky," Callahan said.

    The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, concedes that the funding formula that requires Summit County contribute so heftily to statewide firefighting costs "is pretty poor."

    "You are not the only county concerned about how much you pay," said Dale Jablonski, area manager for the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

    In their fight to change the law, Jablonski encouraged commissioners to ally with Weber County, which does not contribute to the fund.

    "We don't have the political pull that the [county commissioners] have," Summit County Fire Warden Bryce Boyer said.

    For three years, Summit County has contributed about $300,000 each year to the insurance fund.

    "Summit County's been putting into the fund but the southern part of the state has been hit heavy with fires. So a lot of that money is going down there to help cover those," Boyer said. "They're saying, 'why should we pay into this when it gets used down there?'"

    The county is not charged for fighting wildfires that occur in municipalities, or on state or federal land. Commissioners tapped the fund twice in 2002 to help cover the costs of fighting the East Fork Fire in the Uinta Mountains and the Huff Creek blaze near Upton, Boyer said.

    "Certainly if we pull out we've gotten [legislators'] attention and then some it hurts the fund," Richer said.

    However, pulling out could expose Summit County to high firefighting costs in the meantime.

    "I don't think you want to be unprotected while you're [lobbying]," Jablonski told commissioners during their weekly Wednesday meeting.

    Richer and County Commissioner Sally Elliott voted to overturn a previous decision not to contribute to the fund. However, in a related development, the Summit County Commission agreed unanimously this week to hire Boyer full time. The Peoa resident began as a seasonal employee last year.

    Typically, the state and county cooperate to fund a seasonal fire warden in Summit during the summer. That relationship will continue and Summit County will likely begin paying about 70 percent of Boyer's salary during the other eight months.

    Except for Pinebrook, Boyer hasn't met with many Snyderville Basin neighborhoods yet to discuss wildfire protection. Though, efforts to establish defensible space around homes on the East Side are underway in subdivisions like Samak, Echo Creek Ranches, Holiday Park, Pine Meadows and Forest Meadows.

    "They are predicting that we will have a good green-up," Boyer said, adding that warm, dry conditions are expected to produce lots of flammable grass.

    He encourages residents to contact him to arrange to borrow a chipper, free of charge from the county, to dispose of excess vegetation around homes.

    "We will come out and do a lot assessment," Boyer said. "There's some things that folks can do to help protect and make their structure more survivable in the occurrence of a wildland fire around it."

    For more information, contact Boyer at (435) 336-3982.
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  2. #2
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    Post Orem Wildland Fire

    FIRE -- Firefighters responded to a fire along the shore of Utah Lake near Geneva Road and 400 South in Orem Tuesday at approximately 4 p.m. The blaze blackened an area 2 miles long and 500 feet wide in the marsh and bull rushes along the waterfront.
    Due to the uneven terrain, firefighters took up a defensive perimeter and could not actively fight the fire. According to Lt. Doug Edwards of Orem Public Safety, firefighters protected structures and farmland, and the fire finally died down around 2 a.m. Wednesday. Though it continues to smolder, officials said it isn't an immediate hazard and it will continue to be monitored.
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    Post Update

    Several S. Utah blazes keep crews busy

    Arizona Strip officials seeing early start to summer fire season
    By Nancy Perkins
    Deseret Morning News

    ST. GEORGE — Fire crews are on alert after fighting several human-caused fires along the Arizona Strip just south of St. George this week.
    "They just seemed to go from one fire to another," said David Boyd, public affairs specialist with the Bureau of Land Management Arizona Strip field office in St. George.
    An escaped campfire burned 12 acres of tall, dry cheat grass and scrub oak in the low desert region, he said. Twenty firefighters and four engines were used to keep that blaze from growing.
    "We've been slowly adding seasonal firefighters this month, and they're all here this week," Boyd added. "We're looking at our fire season kicking up early this year."
    The same fire crew discovered a second fire, which officials said was started by fireworks, and contained it to around two acres.
    A third, abandoned campfire that had not spread was then found, as well as a party of teenagers gathered around a large bonfire. An investigation into those fires is under way. Several other abandoned campfires have been found in Washington County and the Arizona Strip during the past week, Boyd said.
    "All of these fires were found in areas that are very accessible. The bonfire was on state trust lands just south of the Utah-Arizona border," he added.
    Fire restrictions are in place for the Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area, about 15 miles southwest of St. George on I-15. Open fires and charcoal are prohibited in the area. Fireworks and off-road driving are always prohibited on the Arizona Strip BLM lands and state trust lands throughout the region.
    "Fire danger, particularly in areas below 6,500 feet, is increasing," said Roger Taylor, Arizona Strip BLM district manager. "We have an exceptional crop of tall, dry grass that can spread fire rapidly."
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    Talking Fire Season Fears

    SALT LAKE CITY (KSL/AP) -- Some fire officials say recent rains could hamper the upcoming wildfire season.

    Late-melting snow will help reduce fire danger in the mountains, but the rains have caused extensive growth of grasses and other wildfire fuels in the lower elevations.

    U-S Bureau of Land Management Fire Manager Sheldon Wimmer said he sees wildfire threats from the Idaho state line to St. George.

    In Washington County, cheat grass is averaging two-thousand pounds per acre. That's more than twice the eight-hundred pounds-per-acre average for this time of year.

    B-L-M fire spokeswoman Susan Marzec said this fire season in the lower elevations could be as severe as 2002, when fires burned about 262-thousand acres in Utah.
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    Talking Woodland Hills-Goats to build fire line

    Goats may build fire line for city
    WOODLAND HILLS (AP) — Goats may help protect this city from fire.
    The city is considering paying a local rancher for 500 goats to eat a fire protection line around the most vulnerable parts of the city.
    The city spent $70,000 two years ago to create fire lines by hand and with machines but the Gambel oak has started to grow back and stands about 5 feet tall.
    The goats — at an estimated cost of $9,000 — would be a bargain compared to what the city spent in grant money two years ago, said Fire Chief Jeff Anderson.
    Bringing the goats in now would be perhaps the best way to maintain that fire line, Anderson said.
    "To me, it is a decision about waiting around for the town to burn down or doing something before the town burns down," Baldwin said.
    In 2002, 15 goats were used in a Bureau of Land Management test project around the city.


    "The Army has figured out that this is the safest, cheapest, most environmentally friendly way to do fire lines," he said.
    Besides eating foliage off the Gambel oak, another advantage of using goats is that their hooves break up dead branches and grind them into the soil, leaving behind a clear fire line.
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  6. #6
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    Talking Southern Utah Fires

    Lightning Strikes Spark Dozens of Fires
    Jun. 3, 2005
    Video news report:

    http://tv.ksl.com/index.php?nid=8&sid=209801


    Lightning strikes have sparked dozens of fires in southwestern Utah.

    23-fires are burning there and across the state line in Arizona.

    The biggest blaze is just west of St. George.

    The fire has scorched about 300 acres.

    So far only a communication tower is threatened.

    In Gunlock, flames have burned about 100 acres.
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  7. #7
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    Angry Fire Season Ignites

    Fire season ignites

    Lightning over 2 days touches off several blazes in S. Utah
    By Joseph M. Dougherty
    Deseret Morning News

    Fire season has begun.

    Deseret Morning News graphic
    Lightning ignited two fires Friday in southern Utah. One, the Southwest Utah Hill fire, has since burned about 1,000 acres 12 miles outside St. George, and the other, the Cliff fire, has burned about 230 acres near Zion National Park.
    Numerous other fires also were sparked Thursday within 12 miles of St. George, including the North Gorge fire, which has burned an estimated 2,700 acres to the west of the city, and the Powerline2 fire, which has burned 1,215 acres to the southwest.
    It was just a matter of time, fire experts say.
    The Eastern Great Basin Coordination Center, which forecasts fire danger for Utah and southern Idaho, predicts a slightly above normal danger for fire potential in southwestern Utah. The rest of the state has normal fire potential.
    But it's really up to Mother Nature to dictate what will happen, says Jim Springer, spokesman for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
    "The crystal ball is broken," he said. "About the time you predict something, the opposite happens."
    So authorities look at the problem areas and begin preparing.
    Last week, 11 firefighting recruits finished training in their preliminary classes with the Unified Fire Authority. Forty-nine others recertified and are getting ready for an active fire season.
    They were taught to beware of flashy fuels, grasses, in which fire can spread with remarkable alacrity.
    One place they will expect to have some quickly burning fires is Utah's west desert, where the exceptionally wet spring weather has caused cheatgrass to grow knee-high — twice as high as usual — and other grasses have grown up to 4 feet high.
    But while conditions remain moist for now, grasses are among the fastest-drying fuels when the hot, dry temperatures of summer kick in.

    Dead trees in the state's forests are another danger. Through the Fishlake National Forest, located between Duck Creek, east of Cedar City, and Scofield Reservoir, there are acres and acres of dead, dying and decaying wood, said Dave Dalrymple, the division's fire management coordinator.
    There may be 50 to 100 tons of wood per acre, he said.
    The Eastern Great Basin Coordination Center expects normal to slightly above normal precipitation for June for northern Utah, which should help keep fire danger down.
    But early in the season, like this weekend, fires will be expected along the Arizona Strip, near the Utah and Arizona borders. Fire officials have already cautioned the public to be careful in the use of fire and in off-road driving.
    According to the consolidated fire dispatch center in Cedar City, 10 hand crews, two helicopters, two large air tankers, three single-engine air tankers and one water tender have been assigned to fight the blazes sparked Thursday and Friday. It could take up to three to four days to contain the major fires, plus more than a dozen smaller ones, according to the fire center. None have been reported to threaten any roads or development.
    But fire officials remain cautious. Open fires and charcoal are already being prohibited in the Virgin River Canyon Recreation area in Arizona, 15 miles outside St. George.
    Later in the season, as snow melts and high-elevation fuels dry out, more fires can be expected in mountains.
    Springer said firefighters are concerned with the so-called "wildland and urban interface," or where homes meet wildland.
    "We continue to expand into those areas that in the past were purely vegetative," he said.
    That expansion can threaten homes and increase the cost of fighting fires. Some fires that could have formerly been fought with firelines now must be fought with retardant or water drops, he said.
    Each retardant drop costs about $5,000, Springer said.
    But the division is working with communities to mitigate fire hazards.
    There are 600 communities at risk for fire danger, Dalrymple said. About 170 of those have taken steps to avoid fires. But there's still a lot of work to be done, he said.
    The plan is to transfer the feeling of land ownership from the government to the people, he said.
    The new fire recruits learned that wood is something that won't necessarily catch on fire immediately, but once it starts burning, it's hard to put out.
    About 1,000 fires happen each year in Utah, Springer said, and humans and Mother Nature each account for half of them. But most are caught and captured in firefighters' initial attack.
    Many fires only reach one or two acres without causing widespread damage.
    "Most no one hears about," he said.
    But when humans and nature begin taking their toll with out-of-control campfires or multiple lightning strikes, fires start making the news.
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    ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) - Just as southern Utah firefighters
    contained five blazes, a new, fast-moving fire was sparked Sunday
    afternoon, closing Interstate 15 to traffic in both directions for
    several hours.
    The new fire was reported about 1:30 p.m. near the intersection
    of the Interstate 15 and Utah 9, which leads to Hurricane and Zion
    National Park, Color Country Management Area fire spokeswoman Jody
    Hamel said.
    I-15 traffic was diverted to Utah 9 and Utah 17 through
    Hurricane and Toquerville, until the interstate was reopened about
    5 p.m.
    The blaze quickly grew to 700 acres, but Hamel said backfires
    and retardant drops stopped it before it threatened nearby
    communities. Although its progress has been halted, the fire has
    not yet been contained.
    The Red Cliffs Campground and several hikers were evacuated, but
    the campground was reopened later.
    The Cottonwood Trailhead in the Red Cliffs Preserve will remain
    closed pending completion of firefighting operations in the area.
    Crews contained five fires in southwestern Utah that were
    ignited by lightning Thursday evening.
    The Summit Spring fire, 10 miles south of Ivins was contained at
    just 12 acres and the Cliff fire, just west of Gunlock was
    contained at 227 acres. The Utah Hill fire, 12 miles west of St.
    George burned less than 1,000 acres before containment.
    The 1,200-acre Powerline 2 fire, 10 miles southwest of St.
    George, also was contained.
    The North Gorge Fire, the largest blaze at more than 3,000
    acres, was contained late Sunday. Hamel said.
    A wet winter and plentiful spring rains won't mean that Utah
    should expect a quiet fire season, Hamel added.
    "We've been in a seven year drought, so the trees are really
    stressed and then we had all this moisture, so we have a lot of
    grasses," she said. "With the high temperatures we've had
    already, we have a lot of fuel out there."
    The Eastern Great Basin Coordination Center, which forecasts
    fire danger for Utah and southern Idaho, has predicted a slightly
    above normal danger for fire potential in southwestern Utah.
    Utah's west desert is expected to be ripe for quick, hot fires
    this year because of the high amount of fuel - some grasses there
    are twice as high as usual.
    Another danger: dead trees in the state's forests. The risk is
    especially high in the Fishlake National Forest east of Cedar City
    where there may be as much as 50 to 100 tons of wood per acre, said
    Dave Dalrymple, fire management coordinator for the Utah Division
    of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
    Most the fires burning over the weekend were in rugged isolated
    areas, BLM fire information officer David Eaker said.
    Single engine air tankers were dropping a retardant mixture of
    water and fertilizers on the fire, he said.

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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    Post June 6th

    SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Southern Utah fire crews expect to contain
    the Red Cliffs fire by late Monday, a day after the 780 acre blaze
    forced authorities to close Interstate 15 to traffic.
    Authorities were still trying to determine the cause of the
    fire, which started about 1:30 p.m. Sunday and kept the highway
    off-limits to travelers in both directions for about four hours,
    according to a news release from the Bureau of Land Management.
    A second fire of unknown causes also started Sunday. The
    Grapevine fire was spotted seven miles west of Gunlock at about 7
    p.m., but crews were able to contain it to just 20 acres.
    In all, 25 fires have been triggered near St. George in the past
    five days. All but these two were caused by lightning strikes.
    The two largest fires, the 3,000-acre North Gorge fire and the
    1,200-acre Powerline fire were also contained on Sunday, the
    release states.
    Ground crews, engines and air tankers have been used to attack
    the blazes.
    Authorities are cautioning the public to use extreme caution
    with any fires or when driving off-road. A wet winter and spring
    rains have sprouted heavy, tall grasses, creating a lot of fire
    fuels. Low humidity and windy conditions also have increased the
    fire danger.

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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    Talking Update

    Crews contain blaze in Southern Utah

    THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


    SALT LAKE CITY -- Southern Utah fire crews contained the Red Cliffs fire Monday, a day after the 780-acre blaze forced authorities to close Interstate 15 to traffic.

    Control of the fire was expected Tuesday.

    Authorities were still trying to determine the cause of the fire, which started about 1:30 p.
    m. Sunday and kept the highway off-limits to travelers in both directions for about four hours, according to a news release from the Bureau of Land Management.

    A second fire of unknown causes also started Sunday. The Grapevine fire was spotted seven miles west of Gunlock at about 7 p.m., but crews were able to contain it to just 20 acres.

    In all, 25 fires have been triggered near St. George in the past five days. All but these two were caused by lightning strikes.

    The two largest fires, the 3,000-acre North Gorge fire and the 1,200-acre Powerline fire were also contained on Sunday, the release states.

    Ground crews, engines and air tankers have been used to attack the blazes. Authorities are cautioning the public to use extreme caution with any fires or when driving off-road.

    A wet winter and spring rains have sprouted heavy, tall grasses, creating a lot of fire fuels. Low humidity and windy conditions also have increased the fire danger.
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    Cool Lightning Fries

    Lightning sparks two fires on Antelope Island

    ANTELOPE ISLAND STATE PARK -- Lightning caused two fires on Antelope Island, which were quickly brought to heel by firefighters.

    A small fire Tuesday night was spotted by a mainland resident, who reported it to Davis County dispatch, said Ron Taylor, park manager.

    "We really appreciate that person on the mainland who was watching out for us," he said.

    Syracuse, Clinton and state wildland firefighters put out the blaze, which was near Mushroom Springs, west of the Fielding Garr Ranch, on the east side of the island, Taylor said.

    Taylor then decided to check the west side of the island, and saw a fire burning through cheat grass. Fire crews battled the 300-acre blaze until about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, Taylor said.
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  12. #12
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    Talking Small Blaze

    ROADSIDE FIRE -- A downed power line on Interstate 15 near Lehi caused backed-up traffic Monday.

    Lt. Doug McCleve with Utah Highway Patrol said a piece of construction equipment hit an electric pole, causing live power lines to fall across freeway. The electricity ignited a fire along the side of the road, which was quickly extinguished.

    The freeway was closed for a short time to remove the power lines from the road.
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    Post 3000 Acre Fire near St. George

    Crews Battle 3,000 Acre Wildfire Near St. George
    Jun. 23, 2005
    Sammy Linebaugh reporting

    The wildfire season is officially upon us. A three thousand acre blaze is burning near St. George.

    If all goes according to plan and weather cooperates, fire officials say this morning the fire should be contained by late this afternoon.

    Lightning started the blaze they're calling the Red Fire early yesterday morning, about 25 miles northwest of St. George. Wind fueled the flames and soon black smoke could be seen filling the sky from miles around.

    One hundred firefighters had the blaze 40 percent contained by late afternoon, stopping its advance on the north and west sides. Today, they'll focus on the south and east sides.

    David Boyd/Bureau of Land Management: "There is no structure or homes or anything like that immediately threatened by the fire. There is the small community of Motoqua that's in the area, and we do have some structure fire engines that will be on their way, but just as a precaution for right now."

    Fire officials say at one point, the flames reached within a mile of Motoqua, but crews, with the help of strong afternoon showers, kept the flames away from the town.

    Officials say there are powerlines and a gas line about four miles southeast of the fire, but neither are threatened at this point.

    Lightning ignited seven other fires in Washington County, but by nightfall each was under control.

    In the meantime, on the Arizona Strip, another 20 firefighters are working a 40 acre blaze at what's called Snap Point near the Grand Canyon. That fire is relatively small and not threatening homes or any structures at this point.

    Video News Report:

    http://tv.ksl.com/index.php?sid=214137&nid=8
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    Talking Photo of St. George Frie

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    ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) - The Red Fire 25 miles northwest of St.
    George burned over 8,300 acres but was 75 percent contained by late
    Thursday.
    Full containment of the fire, which was started by lightning
    Wednesday, was expected by Friday afternoon, the Bureau of Land
    Management said.
    More than 100 firefighters worked the blaze Thursday, and
    another 200 firefighters battled other lightning-caused fires.
    They included four fires on Utah Hill 10 miles west of St.
    George. The largest was the 500-acre Indian Canyon fire.
    There also were five fires on the western Arizona Strip 30 miles
    south of St. George.
    Firefighters were hampered by steady winds and high
    temperatures.
    No structures were threatened.

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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    Unhappy Update

    High, erratic winds merge fires

    More than 30,000 acres burning; no homes are harmed
    By Nancy Perkins
    Deseret Morning News

    ST. GEORGE — Four wildfires burning about 15 miles northwest of St. George merged on Friday to create one huge fire.

    A firefighter puts out flames of the Red Fire near St. George this week.

    David Boyd, Blm
    The smaller fires, burning quickly through dry brush and cheat grass on Utah Hill, were pushed together overnight by strong winds, said David Boyd, fire information officer with the Bureau of Land Management in St. George.
    The fire, now called the Westside Complex Fire, has burned more than 30,000 acres and continued to make large runs on Friday evening, Boyd said.
    "No homes or buildings are immediately threatened, but the fire is threatening a power line, gas line and an important communication site," he added.
    The dry winds also contributed to a power problem in St. George Friday evening. Electricity surged on and off throughout sections of St. George, forcing retailers to use generators. Drivers had to stop at intersections where traffic lights were not working.
    More than 300 firefighters are now assigned to the fires, with another 200 firefighters expected to arrive for duty on Sunday night, Boyd said. Two single engine air tankers, 12 engines and three water tenders are being used to fight the fire.
    The Westside Complex Fire burned into the Red Fire area, which fire crews contained at 10,000 acres on Friday evening. Lightning caused both fires on Wednesday.
    Lightning also caused a fire this week in Castleton, Grand County, that destroyed a storage shed containing clothing and camping supplies. Just before 7 p.m. Wednesday, lightning struck near 44 Castleton Road, causing a shed to burst into flames, threatening an adjacent shed and propane tank, according to a statement from the Grand County Sheriff's office. A house also was threatened.
    The fire was contained within the hour and the only damage was to the two sheds, one of which was destroyed.


    The closest community to the Westside Complex Fire is Gunlock, Washington County, about five miles from the fire.
    Five more fires called the Mount Bangs Complex are burning in the Virgin Mountains of Arizona about 25 miles southwest of St. George. More than 3,000 acres have been burned by those fires, which also sent smoke into southern Utah.
    Lightning also sparked several smaller fires on the Arizona Strip. Boyd said the high, erratic winds and abundant dry grass continue to hamper firefighting efforts throughout the region.
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    Talking Udate

    Utah wildfire grows, threatens small community

    Jennifer Dobner THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


    ST. GEORGE -- A fast-burning fire that quadrupled in size Sunday was threatening a small southwestern Utah town, while firefighters made progress on a separate wildfire, holding the state largest blaze to more than 68,000 acres.

    Causing the most concern Sunday was a fire burning about 20 miles north of St.
    George, one that caused Interstate 15 to close overnight.

    Officials said the fire grew from 2,000 acres to 8,000 acres in less than 12 hours, and by late Sunday was within five miles of New Harmony.

    "That's going to be our nightmare," said fire commander Taiga Rohrer, watching plumes of smoke billowing off the Black Ridge Mountains, about 280 miles south of Salt Lake City.

    As Lea Twitchell and her family prepared to evacuate their New Harmony home, her thoughts were with her son, Luke, a first-year firefighter for the Bureau of Land Management fighting the southern Utah blaze.

    "He just started on that crew, and I'm a little nervous because we haven't heard from him," she said Sunday afternoon while watching as flames neared the top of a ridge three miles away. They were told to leave if it reached the top.

    "At church today, the bishop told us all to go home and get our valuables together, just in case," she said. Church members were calling everyone on a phone tree Sunday, and visited other neighbors who weren't on the list or don't have phones.

    Her husband, Craig Twitchell, and younger son, Greg Barnes, were mowing high weeds near their house, and her 17-year-old daughter, Christie Barnes, was gathering food for three horses, three dogs, three daughters, five ferrets, hamster and guinea pig in case flames reach top ridge top.

    She said smoke and ash had already built up a layer on the cars. "It's a little bit irritating to breathe," she said.

    Fire officials in Washington County, where the blaze started, were conferring with counterparts in Iron County about an evacuation plan for those living in the southern part of New Harmony, population 190, if the fire continues to spread.

    A backburn was under way Sunday night to try to keep the blaze from New Harmony, said BLM fire information officer Anne Stanworth.

    The fire with 10-foot tall flames was started Saturday by lightning strikes, and at one point jumped the interstate and burned about 14 power poles. State officials closed the highway, the major route between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, for about seven hours overnight.

    It was closed again late Sunday because of safety concerns and to allow helicopters to drop retardant. Fire crews burned an eight- to 10-mile swath of land adjacent to the interstate to prevent it from jumping the road again.

    The fire was fueled Sunday by temperatures in the high 90s, wind gusts of 25 mph and low humidity.

    At least eight homes near Pintura were evacuated. Three outbuildings at one residence were burned but the home was safe, Stanworth said.

    Conditions were markedly different about 20 miles southwest, where the state's largest fire was mapped Sunday at 68,264 acres.

    With temperatures about 5 degrees lower and winds less than 10 mph, firefighters were able to keep the blaze from growing. By late Sunday it had been 70 percent contained and was expected to be fully contained Tuesday.

    Ground crews worked to cut off the head of the fire and were using a bulldozer to cut a firebreak through the rough, hilly country.

    Four helicopters were picking up as much as 1,000 gallons of water from two nearby reservoirs to douse the flames.

    "We've had very low flame heights and really no smoke, so we've modified our attack plan," fire information officer David Olson said, adding that crews would work until midnight to keep on top of the fire.

    On the southeastern perimeter of the fire, crews spent much of Sunday doing "mop up" work.

    Gunlock residents evacuated on Saturday were allowed to return home on Sunday night. Some residents had never left despite the evacuation order.

    The tiny reservation community of Shivwits, home of the Shivwits Band of Paiutes, was on a one-hour evacuation order Sunday.
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    Post Cedar Fort-Utah County Brush Fire

    BRUSH FIRE -- Fire crews responded to a brush fire 3 miles west of Fairfield near State Route 73 Sunday just after 5 p.m.

    Scanner communications indicated the blaze covered approximately a quarter of an acre, however it was extinguished by 5:55 p.m.

    A Utah County dispatcher said traffic on S.R. 73 was interrupted for about 10 minutes by police as fire crews put out the grass fire. Fire units from Cedar Fort and Utah County responded to the call.
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    Talking Update

    Fire closes I-15, threatens a town

    Winds, high temperature still hampering firefighters
    By Nancy Perkins
    Deseret Morning News

    ST. GEORGE — Dry winds and hot temperatures continued to hamper firefighters Sunday as they battled two major blazes, including one that threatened a small town and again closed I-15.

    An air tanker drops fire retardant Sunday next to I-15 at exit 33 north of St. George.

    Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News
    Today's forecast for the St. George area called for more wind and sunny conditions with highs in the upper 90s.
    The lightning-caused Blue Springs Fire consumed more than 8,000 acres within the Dixie National Forest on the west side of I-15, forcing the Utah Highway Patrol to close down the freeway in both directions several times Sunday.
    "It's a waiting game. We watch the flames on the ridge up there and hope the line holds," said UHP Lt. David Excell, as he looked toward the western slope of a steep hillside across the freeway at the Pintura exit.
    I-15 was closed between 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 5 a.m. Sunday, forcing hundreds of motorists to make alternate plans. Dozens of semitrailer trucks were parked overnight along frontage roads in the St. George area after the freeway was closed, and motel rooms were hard to come by.
    St. George Police Sgt. Rich Farnsworth said the department chose not to ask truckers to move their rigs since the drivers had "no other choice" than to park where they could.
    Clair Jolley, Bureau of Land Management line operations supervisor at the Pintura location, said his crews were standing ready to protect a single home tucked away in the pine trees. Firefighters also cut numerous firebreaks and kept hot spots from reigniting once the active fire passed an area.
    Heavy air tankers continued to make aerial passes over the flames, dumping fire retardant along the fire lines. Several massive power lines in the path of the Blue Springs Fire were burned, although Jolley said the power had already been diverted.
    A helicopter carrying a water bladder also flew overhead.

    Traffic is stopped north of St. George as crews work to keep fire from crossing I-15.

    Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News
    Several miles away, on the west side of the county, the Westside Complex Fire consumed another 10,000 acres overnight and into Sunday, bringing its total to 68,264 acres.
    "We made some good progress against the Westside," said David Boyd, BLM fire information officer. Boyd said winds calmed Sunday in the area, helping the firefighting effort considerably. That fire, also caused by lightning, is 70 percent contained and is expected to be fully contained at some point on Tuesday.
    The evacuation order for folks living in Gunlock also was lifted on Sunday, allowing those who left the town of 200 residents to return home.
    Residents of New Harmony could face the same kind of evacuation order, however, if the Blue Springs Fire continues its northern push, Boyd said.
    Lea Twitchell and her family were told to leave their New Harmony home if flames reached a ridgetop three miles away.
    "At church today, the bishop told us all to go home and get our valuables together, just in case," she said. Church members were calling everyone on a phone tree Sunday, and visited other neighbors who weren't on the list or don't have phones.
    Her husband, Craig Twitchell, and son, Greg Barnes, were mowing high weeds near their house, and her 17-year-old daughter, Christie Barnes, was gathering food for three horses, three dogs, five ferrets, a hamster and a guinea pig in case flames reached the ridgetop.
    She said smoke and ash had already built up a layer on the cars. "It's a little bit irritating to breathe," she said.

    A crew from central Idaho waits on standby near I-15 at Exit 33 as the wildfire burns near the freeway.

    Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News
    Fire crews began a burnout around 7 p.m. Sunday in an effort to push the head of the Blue Springs Fire back into the rugged mountain terrain and away from the open, grassy flats where New Harmony, population about 200, lies.
    "We are developing trigger points for the fire so that we know when we would need to put an evacuation order in place," Boyd said Sunday evening. "The fire is about six miles from New Harmony, however, and evacuations are not imminent."
    Max Lasley of Cedar City was one of several people who drove down to see the wildfire before heading back home.
    "I fought fires for three years with the Red Eye engine crew," said Lasley, who now works in another business. "I really miss it. I guarantee you any firefighter that comes to see this is just aching to fight it."
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