20 Buildings Threatened by Wildfire Near Motoqua, Utah

A wildfire threatened 20 structures Thursday in a remote southwestern Utah town, while a separate blaze knocked out power to about 3,000 people near St. George.


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A wildfire threatened 20 structures Thursday in a remote southwestern Utah town, while a separate blaze knocked out power to about 3,000 people near St. George.

In northern Utah, lightning ignited a fire near Payson that threatened houses and prompted some temporary evacuations. The fire was quickly contained. A recreational vehicles and some sheds were damaged.

In southwestern Utah, the Sunrise fire was near a ranch house, outbuildings and other homes close to Motoqua, an unincorporated town about 20 miles northwest of St. George on the Utah-Nevada border. However, the fire had not burned any structures, said David Boyd, a fire spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management.

Some residents voluntarily evacuated their homes, and some of those returned during the day. Fire officials said there was no estimate of the number evacuated.

The fire was likely started by an overnight lightning strike and had burned more than 3,500 acres by Thursday night.

Another fire, the Oak Patch fire, was burning over 1,000 acres about 10 miles north of Sunrise, but was not threatening any structures.

The power outage was caused when another fire near the community of Washington damaged two power poles, including one that supported a 138,000-volt power line.

Customers north of St. George were without power for about 90 minutes until crews were able to make a temporary fix, restoring power just before 11:30 a.m., said Utah Power spokesman Dave Esklesen.

He warned, however, that fix might not hold when temperatures rose in the afternoon and more power was needed to run air conditioners.

''It's possible that power could go out again,'' he said.

The Mill Creek Fire also burning near Washington City had threatened homes in a subdivision overnight, but firefighters were able to clear a firebreak between them and the fire, taking them out of immediate danger.

The 7,400 acre fire was growing and burning toward the Dammeron fire, Boyd said. It also was burning in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, which provides habitat for the federally protected desert tortoise.

The Dammeron Fire, 12 miles north of St. George, was and burning into thick timber in the Dixie National Forest. More than 500 firefighters had the fire at 35 percent contained. The fire was estimated at 9,100 acres earlier this week, then changed to 8,700 acres and on Thursday was put back at 9,100 acres.

Officials said severe heat, the daily high temperature in southern Utah has been at least 105 degrees for a week, was beginning to take a toll on more than 700 firefighters working wildfires in southern Utah, and two had to be hospitalized for dehydration and heat exhaustion.

''It's extreme fire conditions because of the hot weather,'' Boyd said. ''It's dried up everything.

''It's a huge challenge when we get heat like this,'' he said.

Associated Press writer Christina Salinas contributed to this report.