Pine Valley rainfall not enough to extinguish Saddle Fire

When clouds began to move in over the Saddle Fire burning on the Dixie National Forest near Pine Valley, fire officials were hopeful that rain would help suppress the blaze, Washington County, Utah, June 27, 2016 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Despite rainfall, the Saddle Fire in the Pine Valley Wilderness of the Dixie National Forest remains burning at 1,540 acres as of Friday. However, firefighters progressed on all sections of the fire, which is now 29 percent contained and has reached an estimated cost of $7.8 million to fight the blaze.

A “wetting rain” dropped approximately .3 inches of rain over portions of the fire and reduced the heat of the fire but did not extinguish the inferno, U.S. Forest Service officials said Friday morning.

“Although the moisture helped reduce the fire danger, it also delays the burning operations that are needed to secure the uncontained portions of remaining fireline,” officials said, adding that the weather is expected to warm up again and dry out the fuels by the beginning of the week.

Fire crews continue to use ground and aerial ignition operations, as well as direct and indirect line construction.

“These operations are removing fuels from the path of the fire,” officials said, “in order to prevent the fire from spreading east toward the Pine Valley Recreation Area and south toward the Dammeron Valley area, while still providing protection to the Pine Valley community.”

Fire managers said an attack strategy in Forsyth Canyon includes indirect firing operations – using control lines in the canyon, natural barriers on the main ridge and utilizing a 2005 fire scar to the south.

Officials have peeled back from 731 firefighters and personnel to 625 as of Friday. Crews continue to utilize engines, heavy equipment and aircraft to help suppress the fire.

The fire remains most active in the Lloyd and Forsyth canyons.

While there have not been any additional reports of drone sightings, fire personnel said they remain concerned about drones flying in the area – which is protected by a temporary flight restriction – and are reminding Pine Valley residents that it is a federal offense to fly in a TFR zone.

Voluntary evacuations remain in place for Pine Valley, and the road into Pine Valley is only open to property owners. 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.

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

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