Expect to see increase in Pine Valley Saddle Fire smoke, fire activity

A temporary gas station set up at the Saddle Fire base camp at Grass Valley on the Dixie National Forest near Pine Valley, Washington County, Utah, June 27, 2016 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — As fuels on the Saddle Fire are drying out, fire officials said firing operations – burnouts or backfires – are set to begin Tuesday. Residents in the Pine Valley area may see an increase in smoke and fire activity as a result of the firing operation in the Forsyth Canyon area.

Officials said crews will use control lines and natural barriers on the main ridge south of Pine Valley while also utilizing a 2005 fire scar to the south to box in the fire.

After receiving moisture, fire crews waited for the Saddle Fire to dry out with burn equipment ready when conditions allowed for burnout to secure fire lines in the Pine Valley Wilderness of the Dixie National Forest, Washington County, Utah, July 3, 2016 | Photo courtesy of NIMO, St. George News
After receiving moisture, fire crews waited for the Saddle Fire to dry out with burn equipment ready when conditions allowed for burnout to secure fire lines in the Pine Valley Wilderness of the Dixie National Forest, Washington County, Utah, July 3, 2016 | Photo courtesy of NIMO, St. George News

While the lightning-caused Saddle Fire in the Pine Valley Wilderness of the Dixie National Forest has increased to 1,647 acres, the fire is 42 percent contained.

As the fire reaches partial containment, fire crews are scaling down – going from 731 firefighters last week to 279 firefighters as of Tuesday morning. Crews continue to utilize engines, heavy equipment and aircraft to help suppress the fire.

The fire has reached an estimated cost of $9.9 million. Fire officials said there have only been three recorded injuries on the Saddle Fire, including two minor heat-related injuries and an ankle injury.

Fire crews continue to use indirect line construction around the perimeter of the fire, removing fuels to prevent the fire from spreading east toward the Pine Valley Recreation Area and south toward the Dammeron Valley area.

Firefighters are also going direct on the fire, improving lines in some areas of the fire, including the north and west perimeters.

Fire burn pattern on Saddle Mountain in the Pine Valley Wilderness of the Dixie National Forest, Washington County, Utah, July 3, 2016 | Photo courtesy of NIMO, St. George News
Fire burn pattern on Saddle Mountain in the Pine Valley Wilderness of the Dixie National Forest, Washington County, Utah, July 3, 2016 | Photo courtesy of NIMO, St. George News

Voluntary evacuations are still in place for all properties south on Lloyd Canyon Drive at the Mahogany Lane intersection and south on Oakridge Drive and Mahogany Lane, Washington County public safety officials said Tuesday morning. Persons in these areas are encouraged to be prepared to evacuate if fire conditions change.

While no structures have been destroyed by the fire, officials said 54 structures are currently threatened.

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.

To provide opportunities to continue a dialogue between firefighters and community members, the Saddle Fire Incident Management Team will hold another fire operations update meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Pine Valley Fire Station, 680 E. Main Street, Pine Valley.

Email: kscott@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

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

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