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.
“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
“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.
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.
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