UPDATED 1:05 p.m. — Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower reports that due to high winds, aircraft cannot fly to help fight the fire. However, crews and bulldozers are making good progress on the north end.
CEDAR CITY – After four days of working to contain the Hicks Creek Fire to nearly 60 percent, fire crews experienced a setback Friday as winds increased and refueled the fire.
Overall, the fire grew another 300 acres bringing containment back to 35 percent, said Public Information Officer Jason Curry, with Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
Yesterday, fire managers had originally planned to ignite the southeast corner using a helicopter, but high winds canceled the operation. As the afternoon progressed, fire activity continued to increase spreading the fire from approximately 1,100 acres to 1,413 acres.
On the fire line, crews who had thinned and prepared a road to use as a fuel break then engaged the fire as it approached. Embers blew overhead landing outside the control line. Several spot fires started, leaving firefighters with fire burning uphill and towards them.
The threat to firefighter safety on the lower end of the line caused fire managers to move those crews to a safety zone while crews on the upper end began fighting the main fire and the spot fires by hand, using helicopter bucket drop.
The volume and intensity of fire caused them to have to pull back as well.
Overnight, the fire also moved closer to the Cedar Highlands subdivision. However, authorities are confident they will be able to prevent it from ever reaching that area, Curry said.
“We have made some really great progress this morning,” Curry said. “And I’m confident that we will stop the fire before it ever gets to that area. We are not going to let the fire go that far.”
A couple of cabins located in Shirts Canyon (also known as Shurtz Canyon) are also being prepped with gel and vegetation is being modified to protect the homes, he added.
A public meeting was held Friday night in Cedar City. Fire managers provided information on the current outlook and planning effort. Cedar Highlands residents have been asked to prepare for evacuations should they become necessary due to wind-driven fire Saturday afternoon.
Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower said he is also confident fire crews will be able to contain the fire. However, he said, his office is ready to act if in fact it becomes necessary to evacuate Cedar Highlands.
“I am confident in my office and our ability to evacuate the residents of Cedar Highlands,” Gower said, “but I’m equally confident in the work of the fire officials and believe it will never get to that point where we have to do that.”
The sheriff is receiving regular briefings from officials throughout the day as concerns remain, particularly with the possibility of high winds Saturday afternoon, forecast at 20-25 miles per hour with gusts of 30 miles per hour.
“I’m confident they can stop this but I also have concerns, as everyone does, about the winds,” Gower said. “I’ve seen the winds pick up throughout the day with every hour that goes by so of course it is concerning. So I’m available, just hanging out, listening and making sure that if my office is needed on scene we’re ready to roll.”
Some much-needed rain is also predicted as early as Sunday afternoon into Monday.
There are a total of 251 personnel, five Hotshot crews, four Type 2 crews and three helicopters currently available.
Saturday morning, nine crews and three helicopters are being used to contain the fire area as much as possible in advance of the afternoon’s weather forecast, Curry said. In addition, more aircraft has been ordered in preparation for increased fire behavior.
Road closures remain in effect for the Hicks Creek area. Public traffic along Old Highway 91 and Kanarra Mountain Road has increased and motorists are reminded to not stop on the roadways.
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