Crews contain Little Creek Fire; assessment of historical artifacts, petroglyphs to follow

Little Creek Fire burns near Little Creek Mesa, Washington County, Utah, Aug. 14, 2016 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Fire investigators have determined that lightning strikes caused the Little Creek Fire that started Aug. 14, a fire which is now fully contained. A small crew remains on scene to monitor and extinguish any hot spots. Given the area’s historical significance, an archaeological assessment will be conducted as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.

The 44-acre fire was caused by a “holdover fire” from lightning strikes on Aug. 11, according to the press release from Little Creek Fire information officer Nick Howell.

Little Creek Fire burns into Sunday night near Little Creek Mesa, Washington County, Utah, Aug. 13, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Cathy Eberhart Barber, St. George News
Little Creek Fire burns near Little Creek Mesa, Washington County, Utah, Aug. 14, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Cathy Eberhart Barber, St. George News

A “holdover fire” is a fire ignited by a lightning strike that remains dormant for a considerable time while heat builds up underground until weather conditions dry out the area and the fire begins to spread, Washington County Fire Warden Adam Heyder said in the press release.

This type of fire is also known as a “sleeper fire.”

“This isn’t an uncommon occurrence in southwest Utah, and we can expect to see this happen for up to two weeks after a passing weather system,” Heyder said.

The fire was reported on Aug. 14 just after 2:30 p.m. approximately 7 miles southwest of Apple Valley in an area known as the Little Creek Mesa.

The blaze was fast moving and fueled by juniper and pinion pine, so reinforcements were called in to deter the forward progression of the fire, including crews from  Zion National Park; the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands; the Bureau of Land Management’s Color Country Interagency Fire Resource; and Dixie National Forest.

Initially it was estimated that the fire covered nearly 50 acres. Once fire investigators were able to walk the edge of the fire using GPS coordinates, they were able to accurately map the area and concluded that 44 acres burned, Howell told St. George News Wednesday.

The Little Creek Mesa is identified as an area of historical significance, Howell said, because that whole area is covered in artifacts, including many Anasazi ruins and petroglyphs.

During the fire, the surface soil becomes super heated, Howell said, and can cause significant damage to those artifacts and historical sites.

Once the area is deemed safe, a formal assessment will be conducted, and the area will be inventoried using archaeological reports which identified and mapped the various sites and artifacts years before. Comparing the two will determine what may have been lost or damaged in the fire.

No structures were threatened, and no evacuations or closures are in effect.

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

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