UPDATED: Dixie National Forest fires human-caused, 1 firefighter treated as efforts continue

This photo taken Friday shows smoke from the Grass Valley and North fires burning in Dixie National Forest north of the Pine Valley community of Washington County, Utah, June 9, 2017 | Photo by Mike Melton, area fire management officer for the southwestern area, Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands Management, St. George News

UPDATE June 11, 8:20 p.m. The North Fire remains at 492 acres and is 63% contained at this time. Crews will continue to secure the fires edge and mop-up hot spots. The Grass Valley Fire remains at 13 acres and is 100% contained. Crews will continue to monitor and work on any hot spots. There are now 189 personnel fighting the fire.

PINE VALLEY — Two wildland fires in Dixie National Forest that began Friday morning are now deemed human-caused and continue to burn pinyon-juniper, brush and grass north of the Pine Valley community in Washington County.

Crews are making progress towards containment with no communities or structures immediately threatened. One firefighter was treated for heat-related illness Saturday.

This map issued by fire managers Saturday shows the Grass Valley and North fires burning in Dixie National Forest since Friday morning. The fires are located about 5 and 7 miles, respectively, north of the Pine Valley community in Washington County, Utah | Map courtesy of Dixie National Forest, Pine Valley Ranger District, and Color Country Interagency Fire Center, St. George News | Click on map to enlarge

The Grass Valley Fire is .02 square mile in size, according to estimates issued Saturday, burning about 5 miles north of Pine Valley.

The North Fire is just over 3/4 of a square mile, according to Saturday estimates, burning about 7 miles north of Pine Valley.

Updated size and containment estimates have yet to be issued, Forest Service Public Information Officer Cigi Burton said Sunday afternoon.

While fire investigators have confirmed the fires were human caused, she said, details are not being released as the investigation is ongoing.

The firefighter experiencing heat-related illness was taken to the hospital Saturday by helicopter.

“He is doing well and was released from the hospital last night,” Burton said but declined to release his name or the agency he works with, citing patient confidentiality concerns.

Incident management, resources assigned

The Color Country Type 3 Incident Management Team, headquartered at the Color Country Interagency Fire Center in Cedar City, took over fire management around 9 p.m. Saturday, an upgrade from the Type 4 team first on the fires.

“Our different teams, the management overhead, these two started with a Type 4 initial attack …,” Burton said. “When they get bigger and more resources are needed, the bigger comes into play and it’s a smaller number.”

Incident management types depend upon four things: complexity level, resources required, risks associated with and duration of a fire. As these conditions increase, incident management types elevate from Type 5 to Type 1.

For example, Burton said, a Type 5 incident management might involve a local fire engine responding to a tree on fire; a Type 4 incident might involve a couple local engines, a hand crew and the like at the forefront of a fire; a Type 3 incident in Southern Utah’s Color Country region still involves local management but is more complex; Types 2 and 1 typically involve more complex management and resources beyond the immediate region.

Similarly, equipment resources are classified by type with the smaller number indicating greater capacity. These resources are not keyed to a region or a fire but available to go where needed. Types 1, 2 and 3 helicopters, for example, are currently addressing the Grass Valley and North fires – Type 1 carries more gallons of water or retardant than Types 2 and 3.

Other resources assigned to the fires in Dixie National Forest currently include 13 engines, one dozer, 12 smoke jumpers, two Type 1 water tenders, Cedar City Hotshots, Aerial Supervision aircraft (Air Attack), four single engine air tankers, one heavy air tanker; and orders have been placed for a Type 1 water tender.

There are also 85 personnel assigned to the fires.

This map generated Saturday shows areas subject to Dixie National Forest, Pine Valley Ranger District, Special Closure Order 0407-17-03, issued in response to the Grass Valley and North fires burning in the region since Friday morning. The closures remain in effect Sunday. Dixie National Forest, Washington County, Utah, June 10-11, 2017 | Map courtesy of Dixie National Forest and Color Country Interagency Fire Center, St. George News | Click on map to enlarge

Grass Valley Fire

The Grass Valley fire remains at  90 percent containment. Firefighters are conducting mop-up operations and checking for hot spots within the perimeter.

North Fire

The North Fire remains at 5 percent containment. It had minimal fire activity throughout Saturday night, Burton said in her Sunday news release.

“The fire line has been holding and no new growth has been reported. Firefighters will continue to work for containment in areas that are safe.”

Closures and cautions

Area closures remain in place: Forest Road 011 (Grass Valley Road), south of Pinto to the main Pine Valley road, and Forest Road 014 (Pinto Springs road), the Pinto Springs Campground and the Paradise Springs Trailhead are under a closure order. See closure map inserted with this report.

Avoid Highway 56 if possible as wildland firefighters are actively engaged with suppression efforts in that area.

There are no threatened communities or structures as of Sunday afternoon, Burton said, and no evacuations have been required.

Concerned residents may sign up for Everbridge to receive notifications from the Washington County Emergency Alert System online. Those experiencing problems with online registration may call telephone 435-634-5700 for assistance.

A red flag warning for fire weather is in place until 10 p.m. Sunday. The region is experiencing high winds forecast at 24 mph and gusts forecast at 40 mph. Temperatures are hot and dry and may increase fire behavior.

Remember that the smallest spark can create a massive wildfire. It only takes one. Interagency fire officials are encouraging residents to better protect their homes and communities from wildfire and to help firefighters reduce the number of human-caused fires.

Arson, unattended campfires, illegal burning, outdoor shooting, downed power lines, sparks from trailer chains and other human causes have outpaced natural sources of wildfire. It’s these incidents — both accidental and purposeful — that overwhelmingly represent ignition sources.

Read more: Human attention means fire prevention: Tips to stop human-caused fires

Flying drones near wildfires are not safe | Flyer courtesy of United States Department of Agriculture, St. George News | Click on flyer to enlarge


Do not operate drones or any unmanned aircraft in areas where wildland fire fighting is ongoing.

Fire managers have not experienced any problems with drones thus far this year in the Color Country region, Burton said, although there were a number of instances of drone incursions in wildland fire zones in Southern Utah last year.

“Arizona fires have currently had some drone situations. They’ve had several,” she said, recalling a situation with one of the Type 1 large fires there.

Drones create a potential safety hazard for those involved in airborne fire suppression operations and can result in fire managers temporarily suspending aerial firefighting operations or worse – damage or destruction of firefighting aircraft, injury or death of personnel involved in firefighting efforts. Utah law allows a range of fines up to $15,000 and terms of imprisonment for convicted offenders.

Read the law: Utah Code Section 65A-3-2.5 regarding wildland fire and unmanned aircraft

Multiple-objective fire management, increased prescribed-fire use, partnerships with local groups and homeowners taking a bigger role in mitigating risk can reduce unwanted fires from occurring.

Email: jkuzmanic@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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