News LIVE: I-15 by Littlefield reopens in wake of brush fire

Brush fire on I-15 near Littlefield, Arizona, shut down both north and southbound lanes of travel, Littlefield, Arizona, Feb. 29, 2016 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

This is a developing story and may be updated as further details emerge.

LITTLEFIELD, Ariz. – All northbound lanes and one southbound lane of Interstate 15 in the area of Littlefield and Beaver Dam have reopened after an out-of-control brush fire forced the freeway’s closure around 6:30 p.m. for several hours Monday.

Traffic was diverted away from the growing fire area onto Utah Highway 91 after the freeway was shut down, the Arizona Department of Public Safety reported.

Commercial traffic along with other vehicles clogged the highway bumper-to-bumper as drivers made their way from Beaver Dam through Santa Clara to St. George and then back onto I-15. A number of large commercial vehicles are traveling through or being parked in neighborhoods and other areas near the freeway, authorities said.

11 p.m.. Monday: Arizona Highway Patrol reports both north and southbound lanes of I-15 have reopened.

Northbound I-15 has reopened as of 10:45 p.m., Monday, Arizona DPS Sgt. Bottoms said. Southbound I-15 remains closed at this time, though is anticipated to be reopen by 11:30 p.m.

The Mesquite, Nevada, Police Department also tweeted that the fire appears to be nearly completely contained. Traffic is still being diverted to Old Highway 91 as efforts to reopen both lanes continues.

I-15 remains closed as of 10 p.m., according to a tweet from the Arizona Department of Transportation.

“The fire on the initial side of the freeway had moderated itself out pretty good,” said Beaver Dam-Littlefield Fire Chief Jeff Hunt. “Still a bunch of work to be done there.”

Hunt estimated the fire burned roughly around 30-40 acres.

“Containment would be a day or two at least,” Hunt said. “(It) will take several days to get it completely out.”

“Our big worry right now with the freeway is smoke in talking to ADOT,” Hunt said. “The fire isn’t impinging on the bridge like it was earlier. If we get smoke when the night gets cooler, an inversion could set up and get significant smoke on the freeway.”

Brush fire on I-15 near Littlefield, Arizona, shut down both north and southbound lanes of travel, Littlefield, Arizona, Feb. 29, 2016 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News
Brush fire on I-15 near Littlefield, Arizona, shut down both north and southbound lanes of travel, Littlefield, Arizona, Feb. 29, 2016 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

The earliest ADOT may open up any part of the highway may be between midnight and Tuesday morning, Hunt said.

Arizona DPS Sgt. John Bottoms told St. George News reporter Kimberly Scott at the scene that the fire was the result of one or more controlled agricultural burns  that got  out of hand around 4 p.m., Monday.

The fires were originally set on the south side of I-15 in the Littlefield area. At first there was no wind, but the winds did pick up later on and caused the fire to jump the north side of the highway and into an area with heavy, dense brush and dry vegetation, Bottoms said.

The fire had threatened structures and people were told to be prepare to evacuate if necessary, Bottoms said. A Mohave County Sheriff’s deputy aiding a homeowner during the operation fell and broke his leg, he said.

Arizona DPS Trooper Thomas Callister said the deputy fell off a roof while spraying it down with a garden hose. He was subsequently transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center by ambulance.

Homeowners were also able to stay in their homes and were a big help as they sprayed their homes down as a preventative measure, Callister said.

Fire crews from the BLM Arizona Strip Field Office, Dixie National Forest and Bunkerville Fire Department also responded to the fire.

At around 8:50 p.m., the Mesquite, Nevada, Police Department tweeted homes in the Beaver Dam area were being threatened by the fire. The Mesquite, Beaver Dam-Littlefield and Clark County fire departments are currently battling the blaze.

Brush fire on I-15 near Littlefield, Arizona, shut down both north and southbound lanes of travel, Littlefield, Arizona, Feb. 29, 2016 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News
Brush fire on I-15 near Littlefield, Arizona, shut down both north and southbound lanes of travel, Littlefield, Arizona, Feb. 29, 2016 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News

The Mesquite, Nevada, Police Department tweeted around 8: 15 p.m. that residents in Beaver Dam are being evacuated at the Virgin River. The highway remains shut down and traffic is being diverted onto Old Highway 91 at Exit 10.

Northbound I-15 is closed at milepost 8, one mile south of Littlefield. The southbound lanes are closed at milepost 28.

Delays are expected. There is no estimated time to reopen the highway, according to a press release issued by the Arizona Department of Transportation.

“There is a brush fire on I-15 near Littlefield & Beaver Dam, Arizona Highway Patrol, ADOT and the Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire Department are on scene and working to suppress the fire,” Arizona DPS Sgt. John Bottoms said.

Alternate route

Highway 91 between St. George, Utah, and Littlefield, Arizona | Image from Mapquest.com, St. George News
Highway 91 between St. George, Utah, and Littlefield, Arizona | Image from Mapquest.com, St. George News

Those seeking to avoid the traffic backup and construction work in the Virgin River Gorge may take Highway 91 as an alternate route. The highway bypasses the Gorge entirely, intersecting with I-15 at Littlefield, Arizona, to the south and connecting to St. George, Utah, at the north via Santa Clara and Sunset Boulevard. See map inset.

To stay up to date with the latest highway conditions around the state, visit the ADOT Traveler Information Center at az511.gov, follow us on Twitter or call 511; outside of Arizona, dial 888-411-7623.

St. George News Assistant Editor Kimberly Scott and Reporter Ric Wayman contributed to this story.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

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!

1 Comment

  • Common Sense March 1, 2016 at 7:28 am

    That explains the burning smell last night in Washington Fields…

Leave a Reply