Pine Valley residents on high alert as fire enters canyon, threatens 500 homes

ST. GEORGE — A heavy blanket of smoke is dropping into the Pine Valley community Friday as the Saddle Fire continues to burn. Officials continue to urge residents and visitors to evacuate the area.

As the lightning-caused fire approaches the town, smoke may increase, making evacuation difficult, Washington County public safety officials said Friday, adding that exiting traffic can also hinder firefighter response.

Lightning-caused fire burning on Saddle Mountain in the Pine Valley Wilderness of the Dixie National Forest, Washington County, Utah, June 23, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher, St. George News
Lightning-caused fire burning on Saddle Mountain in the Pine Valley Wilderness of the Dixie National Forest, Washington County, Utah, June 23, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher, St. George News

“Again, residents and visitors are encouraged to leave the area,” safety officials said in a statement Friday afternoon. “If you decide not to leave you should carefully monitor fire activity and be prepared to leave quickly should conditions worsen. In wildfire situations it is often better to leave early to insure your safety.”

Flames breached over the ridge near the command center in Lloyd Canyon Thursday as strong winds caused the Saddle Fire to vigorously spread. By Friday evening, the fire had grown to 1,123 acres with 5 percent containment, reaching an estimated cost of $2.1 million and threatening 500 structures including homes and outbuildings.

Fire officials said Friday a large plume of smoke and flames in Forsyth Canyon has raised concerns among property owners near the Saddle Fire. However fire crews said they remain confident in their fire suppression plan, strategies and tactics.

Washington County public safety officials announced Friday night that additional resources were arriving at the Saddle Fire and will be assisting with the effort.

Lightning-caused fire burning on Saddle Mountain in the Pine Valley Wilderness of the Dixie National Forest, Washington County, Utah, June 24, 2016 | Photo by Michael Durrant, St. George News
Lightning-caused fire burning on Saddle Mountain in the Pine Valley Wilderness of the Dixie National Forest, Washington County, Utah, June 24, 2016 | Photo by Michael Durrant, St. George News

Flames from the Saddle Fire – primarily burning in the conifer strips along the steep and rocky slopes and ridges above the community of Pine Valley – entered the canyon Thursday despite aerial firefighting efforts to suppress a spot fire that burned just east of Lloyd Canyon.

The fire – with flames reaching as high as 100 feet – is raging in areas that are inaccessible to ground firefighters.

Fire crews are poised to provide structure protection in the event that the fire crosses the fuel break surrounding the town of Pine Valley, public safety officials said Friday. Firefighters are also using masticators – heavy equipment that grinds up trees and brush – to further improve the fuel break surrounding Pine Valley.

Other crews have begun to expand their assessments of surrounding communities, including Central and Veyo, as precautionary measures, fire officials said.

Lightning-caused fire burning on Saddle Mountain in the Pine Valley Wilderness of the Dixie National Forest, Washington County, Utah, June 24, 2016 | Photo by Michael Durrant, St. George News
Lightning-caused fire burning on Saddle Mountain in the Pine Valley Wilderness of the Dixie National Forest, Washington County, Utah, June 24, 2016 | Photo by Michael Durrant, St. George News

The fire remains most active in the Lloyd and Forsyth canyons, according to the U.S. Forest Service, burning mostly in the downed logs and underbrush in the conifer stands.

Spotting from burning embers drifting through the air and downhill rolling of burning material on the steep slopes is expected to contribute to fire spread, the forest service said. However, the brush fuels on lower slopes remain green enough to slow the fire’s spread down slope.

Property owners have been asked by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office to voluntarily evacuate Pine Valley, limiting the number of people in the area threatened by fire.

Area closures in and around the Pine Valley area remain in effect on the Dixie National Forest. The Pine Valley Recreation Area also remains closed to all uses.

The Saddle Fire Incident Management Team is expected to hold a community meeting Saturday at 10 a.m. to provide a fire operations update. The meeting will be held at the Central Fire Department, 155 E. Center Street in Central.

READ MORE: National Incident Management team takes command of fire burning near Pine Valley

Resources

  • InciWeb Saddle Fire information
  • Information about areas closed on the Dixie National Forest can be found on the InciWeb Saddle Fire page
  • Residents may sign up for Everbridge to receive notifications from the Washington County Emergency Alert System online at 911register.com or by calling 435-634-5700
  • Anyone 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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Email: kscott@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

 

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