Brian Head fire officials express concern over anticipated weather conditions

Residents from Parowan to Panguitch leave notes of support for fire crews, Panguitch, Utah, June 24, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Color Country Fire Interagency, St. George News / Cedar City News

BRIAN HEAD – The Brian Head fire spread another 600 acres overnight, with fire officials concerned a red flag warning today may lead to more growth.

Map of Brian Head fire as of 9:43 a.m., June 26, 2017 | Photo from InciWeb, St. George News / Cedar City News | Click to enlarge

The fire is now 43,436 acres, up from Sunday night when the fire was reported at 42,800 acres. It continues to be 10 percent contained.

The Upper Bear Valley area above Paragonah is being evacuated due to forecast winds. Iron County Sheriff Lt. Del Schlosser said he isn’t familiar with the Bear Valley area and isn’t sure how many cabins are in the area.

Strong southwest winds are expected to return to the area, causing concern for fire managers on the northern perimeter of the fire. The National Weather Service in Salt Lake City has forecast winds from 9-14 mph increasing to 17-22 mph in the afternoon.

Sunday, a dozer built an indirect fire line, away from the current fire perimeter, across Horse Valley. Airtankers dropped retardant immediately adjacent to the dozer line with the intent that the retardant should minimize the ability of embers to start spot fires across the dozer line.

An additional dozer line was constructed along the northeast corner.

Fire managers are optimistic crews will be able to contain that section of the fire line due to the lighter fuels in the area.

Crews will continue to secure the southern perimeter of the fire to slow its progression toward Mammoth Creek. They will also be scouting out ahead of the fire to the north and south to be prepare if the fire activity picks up and moves the fire in those directions.

The Type 1 Incident Management team is now overseeing fire suppression on the eastern side of the Brian Head fire from Panguitch. The Type 2 team remains in command of the western side of the fire from Parowan. Tim Roide is the incident commander for the Type 2 team while Kim Martin is the incident commander for the Type 1 team. The two teams will coordinate closely to ensure the safety of the public and the firefighters.

There are currently 14 helicopters, 49 engines and 36 crews comprising 1,140 firefighters on scene.

The fire remains under investigation and no citations have been issued. Law enforcement has requested the public please refrain from spreading rumors about evacuations and the individual who allegedly started the fire as it only makes the jobs of officials more difficult.

“We really need people to stop spreading rumors,” Schlosser said. “It doesn’t help the situation and makes our job and the fire officials’ jobs more difficult. The public continues to ask how they can help – this is how they can help. Please do not spread rumors about things that have not been confirmed through official lines.”

Current evacuations – Upper Bear Valley is under evacuation as of this morning.  The following communities remain evacuated per local law enforcement: 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. Evacuees can contact the Red Cross for shelter information. If you live in an area affected by wildland fires, officials recommend familiarizing yourself with the Ready, Set, Go Program.

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 to include Forest lands north of Highway 14. Please check your route before planning recreational activities.  Maps of the closure area are posted at the InciWeb incident webpage.

Health warnings – On Sunday, the Southwest Utah Public Health Department released a statement encouraging residents to be aware of health impacts from wildfire smoke, which contains fine particles that can cause burning eyes, running nose, scratchy throat, headaches and bronchitis and can worsen chronic heart and lung disease.

Read more: Health department issues smoke safety warning, tips

The Brian Head Fire started around midday Saturday, June 17, and grew very quickly through dense timber on lands administered by Brian Head Town, Iron County, in cooperation with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands.  It has since burned on to lands managed by Dixie National Forest and Color Country District Bureau of Land Management.  Cedar Breaks National Monument remains open, with access via Highway 14.

Email: tsullivan@stgnews.com

Twitter: @tracie_sullivan

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

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