Oak Grove Fire reaches 60 percent containment; watershed concerns

Washington County Fire Warden watches the smoke rise from the Oak Grove Fire in the Dixie National Forest, Washington County, Utah, Sept. 8, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Fire crews increased containment of the Oak Grove Fire to 60 percent Monday thanks to overnight moisture and intermittent rains as Mother Nature lent a hand in fire suppression efforts.

The lighting-caused fire is holding steady at 943 acres as fire crews continue to construct fire-lines designed to keep any internal flare-ups from spreading past the fire perimeter, according to a press release from the U.S. Forest Service.

The rains we have received have significantly helped suppression efforts, but generally it takes a combination of mixing and stirring the moisture down into surface fuels to effectively penetrate burning fuels to the point of extinction,” Keith Adams, acting Forest Fire Management Officer on the Dixie National Forest, said in a Forest Service press release.

Aerial view of the Oak Grove Fire, Washington County, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Washington County Emergency Services, St. George News
Aerial view of the Oak Grove Fire, Washington County, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Washington County Emergency Services, St. George News

While the rains helped dampen fire activity, the weather also put a damper on continuous air support throughout the day.

Moisture is forecast to persist through Tuesday with gradual drying and an increase in temperature by the weekend. Though smoke was not as visible Monday, it may still be visible in the days to follow.

The Type 3 Incident Management Team is planning to transition the fire management back to the Pine Valley Ranger District later this week.

The Oak Grove Fire ignited Sept. 8 and originated 3 miles southwest of the Oak Grove campground in the Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness of the Dixie National Forest.

The 1/4-acre Brown Trail Fire was declared controlled and out Monday following suppression actions that were assisted by the rains in the area. This fire was also lighting-caused and ignited Friday.

Forest Roads Nos. 031, 902, 032, 033 and the Oak Grove campground remain temporarily closed. The forest closure order will continue until the fire danger subsides.

Possible post-fire watershed concerns

A part of the Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness is the home of a watershed that supplies water to the City of St. George and other municipalities. While the Oak Grove Fire has burned a safe distance from the watershed, there is still a question of possible contamination from run off once the fire is out.

A view of the north-end Quail Creek Reservoir, Quail Creek State Park, Hurricane, Utah, March 3, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
A view of the north-end Quail Creek Reservoir, Quail Creek State Park, Hurricane, Utah, March 3, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The area watershed drains into the Quail Creek Reservoir. The reservoir serves as a source of drinking water.

County water officials are concerned that ash and other debris left in the fire’s wake could end up flowing into the reservoir following rain storms, said Corey Cram, assistant general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District.

If that happens, however, Cram said, there is a treatment process that will help clean out any possible contamination. Moreover, any contaminated runoff from the watershed would settle in the northern end of the reservoir. The water district’s water treatment plant is located at the southern end and wouldn’t be immediately threatened by potential contaminants.

Still, if the reservoir were to be rendered unsafe to use for drinking water, Cram said the water district could easily switch over to the Sand Hollow Reservoir and take water from there. The water district can also take water directly from the Virgin River if necessary.

“We have a very reliable water supply,” Cram said, adding the county has a reliable water supply with many redundancies designed for these types of situations.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

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