Fire moves toward Pine Valley closing roads, campgrounds, trails; $1,000 reward offered

Saddle Fire in inaccessible terrain near Pine Valley, Dixie National Forest, Utah, June 19, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Dixie National Forest, St. George News

UPDATE: 12:43 p.m. Tuesday A mandatory evacuation has been issued for the Lloyd’s Canyon area of Pine Valley. Residents of the area are being asked to leave now.

A reception center is being set up at the Veyo Fire Station located at 55 E. Center in Veyo. Information will be available at that location once the center is set up. For additional information, call 435-590-2736.

ST. GEORGE — Fire activity near Pine Valley has increased, officials said Tuesday. In order to enhance public safety, additional precautions are being implemented, including road closures and campground evacuations.

The Saddle Fire burning near Pine Valley was very active at 5:45 a.m. Tuesday, Dixie National Forest, Utah, June 21, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Nick Glidden, St. George News
The Saddle Fire burning near Pine Valley was very active at 5:45 a.m. Tuesday, Dixie National Forest, Utah, June 21, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Nick Glidden, St. George News

“Unfortunately yesterday’s drone intrusions resulted in air resources being pulled from the fire line allowing for the fire to progress toward Pine Valley,” according to Washcosafety.

Officials are now offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of anyone operating a drone in the fire area. There is currently a 5-mile temporary flight restriction zone around the Saddle Fire.

Aircraft dropping retardant on the lightning-caused fire 2 miles southwest of the Pine Valley community were grounded Monday afternoon due to a “near-miss” with a drone. It was the second incident involving a drone impeding Saddle Fire suppression efforts. Another drone incident occurred Sunday in the area of the Aspen and Pine Canyon fires in Iron County.

“Air operations will not fly any further aerial missions until the drone intrusion problem is resolved,” fire officials said in a statement on Utah Fire Info Monday evening.

As of Tuesday, officials said the following additional precautions are now being implemented:

  • The Pine Valley Campground and Recreation area is closed and is being evacuated
  • Baker Reservoir is closed
  • All nonmotorized trails leading into the Pine Valley wilderness area are closed
  • The Grass Valley Road is closed
  • The Pine Valley Road is closed but will remain open to residents and fire resources only
  • Motorized roads leading to Pine Valley – including the Mahogany Bench Road, Pine Valley Road #035 and the road south of Pinto, Road #011 – will have closures in place
Southwest Fires Map
Image courtesy of UtahFireInfo.gov, St. George News

“Please avoid the area and allow fire resources to travel and work freely in the area,” officials said.

The Saddle Fire, discovered June 13, has grown to over 350 acres and is zero percent contained as it continues to burn in inaccessible terrain.


Read more: Drone grounds aerial firefighting operations for 3rd time


Fire fuels in the area are being reduced, and defensible spaces are being created. A fire break has been created along the boundaries of private property and land overseen by the U.S. Forest Service.

It is unknown how long it may take for the fire to burn down to the fire break or when it may get to a point firefighters can attack it directly.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office announced on its Facebook page Tuesday that it is offering up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the drone operator who interfered in Saddle Fire suppression efforts on Monday.

“Safety and property were compromised, and the Sheriff’s Office will have zero tolerance for the reckless operation of an unmanned aircraft which interferes with fire suppression efforts,” the Sheriff’s Office said, adding that criminal offenses range from a class B misdemeanor to a second-degree felony.

“If YOU were the operator, contact us and we MAY consider a citation in lieu of arrest,” the Facebook post stated.

Those with information regarding drones flying in the area of the Saddle Fire should contact the Washington County Sheriff’s Office at 435-634-5734.

Email: kscott@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

12 Comments

  • Bob June 21, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    “drone intrusion problem”

    sounds like sci-fi. battle against the machines. LOL

  • tcrider June 21, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    because its happened a few times , I bet its someone local that can afford expensive toys
    maybe someone that has a house with a higher vantage point that can see the authorities coming.
    If they get caught, they will use the excuse they were doing it for their personal safety.

  • ladybugavenger June 21, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    $1,000, well…it’s not that much. Maybe $5,000 can shake the loyalty of a friend or family member

    • .... June 21, 2016 at 9:28 pm

      Not for $5.000 but I would for $5.010 LOL !

  • imsmilin June 21, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    I don’t post to these often, but I am infuriated by this drone situation. You and your toy(s) are causing home evacuations, tax payer money, and lost vacation/family time at the very least…the risk of harm or danger to these firefighters!! Your decision to play with your toy during a lightning started FOREST FIRE is incomprehensible. . I am so disgusted with you right now I’m going to stop before I say something on this public forum that would change someone’s opinion about my mild mannered personality. Get a life you idiot.

  • knobe June 21, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    It does occur to me that these are civilian ( battery powered ) & rather lightweight .
    They could probably be dropped with a hit from a flare gun or most anything .
    Even a collision should be less damaging than a bird hit .
    Any chance crew could use them for target practice ?

    ?

    • An actual Independent June 21, 2016 at 8:13 pm

      Flare gun in a wildfire area. “Yeah, that’s good idea” said nobody, ever.

    • Mason June 21, 2016 at 8:51 pm

      Other than the shooting them with a flare gun comment…I don’t think that a civi’ drone is going to cause severe damage to a helicopter that this is such a problem that you would stop these needed resources to stop a wildfire that is causing homes to be evacuated. I’m not super familiar with the range of these drones but I dont think that if its high up enough to be a “Near Miss” it cant be to wide a radius on the the ground that possibilites were. Maybe call the cops and keep trying to stop the fire??

      • Real Life June 22, 2016 at 10:12 am

        The aircraft that fight these fires have to swoop in very low. If they collided with a drone, very bad things can happen.

        • .... June 23, 2016 at 2:45 am

          Oh wow. ! What a brilliant comment. !

  • Wolverine June 22, 2016 at 9:15 am

    Mason, It doesn’t sound like you are a pilot or know much about operating an aircraft, which is ok, but I’d like to clarify a couple of things for you to consider.

    The impact of a drone (which is a widely used term for an unarmed flying device), which can range in size from a few ounces to a much larger object that can weigh over 50 lbs CAN cause serious damage and CAN down an aircraft. The concern may not seem like much if it’s a few ounces and quite possibly, that would not effect the flight or safety of the aircraft if an impact should occur. However, a pilot has no way to determine the size or weight of an object while it is coming near them, and a larger object could create enough damage to ground the aircraft and require thousands in repairs, engine failure and could result in a crash which , of course could be fatal. When pilots do sighting flights for Fire management and drop Slurry or water loads, they try to get really low to see what is going on and to effectively hit the targeted ares of the fire they are trying to fight. If a bird can damage and crash an aircraft a drone certainly can. Pilots take the risk with birds, but they should not have to do so with a drone. It only takes one “Hit” to kill a plane or helicopter full of people. You talk about a “Near Miss” as if it should not be a concern, We all take a risk while driving, and have rules of the road for safety. This is really no different, after all there are no traffic cops in the air.
    I have worked in and around Fire Fighting aircraft and with Wildland Firefighters for many years, and know that they take all precautions to keep as safe of a workplace as they can. Forests, brush, structures and personal property can burn, and be replanted and replaced, people’s lives cannot. Drones will interrupt the plan of action to fight fires resulting in the loss of forest acreage, structures, property etc. and we need to take measures to stop them from interfering in this process. Hopefully this fire will not result in any lives lost and the people interfering will be caught and fined appropriately and hopefully, they learn an important lesson.

  • ScanMeister June 22, 2016 at 9:56 am

    Pine Valley is a beautiful place and such a close get away for me in St George……less than an hour and you are in the Pine Trees. One negative is that there is only one road out and I am glad they are being careful with evacuations of areas in potentially harms way. Testing jet engines they let it ingest a frozen chicken and there should be no damage to the turbine blades. I am not sure about helicopters…….tips of main rotor is just under mach 1 and I am not sure how much impact they can take without damage. I defer to a more qualified person for comment.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.