Brian Head Fire grows to over 37,500 acres

ST. GEORGE – The Brian Head Fire continues to grow despite suppression efforts and has reached 37,560 as of Saturday morning.

The Salt Lake Tribune has reported that the Brian Head Fire is currently the largest wildfire in the country.

Over 800 people from multiple agencies continue to battle the fire that remains at 5 percent containment.

A view of the Brian Head fire, June 22, 2017 | Photo courtesy Kenneth Wade, St. George News / Cedar City News

Because of the size of the fire and the complex logistics of dealing with such a large area of impact, travel and communications, the fire will be divided operationally between a crew designated as Team 4; and a responding Type 1 Incident Management Team that has been ordered to assist with fire suppression operations.

Team 4 will remain in Parowan and work on the west side of the fire, while the incoming team will base in Panguitch and assume command of the east side of the fire.

The Brian Head Fire started June 17 and was reportedly started by someone in the Brian Head area using a weed torch during extremely dry conditions. The attempt to burn away a couple of weeds has since erupted into a massive fire that has thus far destroyed 13 homes, confirmed, and eight outbuildings; as well, it has displaced entire communities.

Open house – community meeting

An open house at Panguitch High School, 390 E. 100 South in Panguitch, is being held Saturday from 2-3 p.m. that will have fire managers from various agencies on hand to provide an overview of fire suppression activities and answer questions.

Brian Head fire from a distance, Iron County, Utah June 17, 2017 | Photo by Scott Young, St. George News / Cedar City News

Current evacuation

Evacuations remain in effect for: Panguitch Lake, Horse Valley, Beaver Dam, Castle Valley, Blue Springs, Rainbow Meadows, Mammoth Creek, Dry Lakes, Second Left Hand Canyon and the town of Brian Head.

The Red Cross has established a shelter for the fire evacuees at Panguitch High School.

Southern Utah University has also opened some of its dorms to displaced families.

Road and trail closures

  • Highway 143 is closed from the cemetery in Parowan to milepost 50 outside of Panguitch.
  • Mammoth Creek Road is closed at the junction with Highway 143.
  • The north side gate of 143/148 is closed.
  • The Dixie National Forest has expanded its area closure.

Cedar Breaks National Monument remains open, with access via Highway 14.

Please check your route before planning recreational activities. Maps and a thorough description of the closure area are posted on the government inciweb site webpage for the fire.

A map marking the area of the Brian Head Fire as of June 24, 2017. The fire has currently stands at over 37,500 acres. | Click to enlarge | Map courtesy of Utah Fire Info, St. George / Ceder City News

Fire conditions and activity

Another Red Flag Warning has been issued to indicate extreme weather conditions that may lead to rapid fire growth.

Continued hot, dry, and windy conditions have hampered firefighting efforts throughout the week. Unprecedented fire behavior has been observed. A weaker system will pass through the area Sunday; however, southwestern winds are expected to return on Monday.

The fire has not crossed Highway 143 at Mammoth Springs yet, but fire managers are anticipating the likelihood of such with the continued northwest winds.

In the southwest corner, firefighters continue to search out hot spots to fully extinguish and secure the perimeter to allow Brian Head residents to return soon.

The northwestern edge of the perimeter has shown minimal growth over the past couple days, primarily because the winds have been blowing the fire back into areas already burned.

The northeastern corner of the fire was less active yesterday as well, and the perimeter there is reaching lighter fuels, such as grass and sage.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

 

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