Fire crews attack blaze threatening homes

ST. GEORGE – Sparks flung from construction equipment is believed to be the cause of a rapidly-spreading fire that burned through a wash and threatened nearby homes Wednesday afternoon.

Just before 3 p.m., the St. George Fire Department was alerted to a fire in the wash that runs through the middle of the Paradise Canyon subdivision on the north side of Snow Canyon Parkway.

Multiple fire agencies responded to a rapidly spreading fire in a wash running through the Paradise Canyon subdivision in St. George. While one home received minor damage, firefighters were able to contain and quell the fire, St. George, Utah, July 5, 2017 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

“We ended up having a large fire in the wash (with) a lot of overgrowth, brush and trees – heavy fuels along with light fuels on the ground,” St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker said. “With the wind blowing we did have a rapid spread. We did have homes threatened on both sides of the wash.”

Smoke rising from the blaze could be seen from the southern end of Bluff Street. At the scene the smoke was thick and cast dark shadows on the earth below as it moved across the sun above.

As St. George Fire crews reacted to the blaze, they were joined by units from the Santa Clara Fire Department, as well as personnel and trucks from the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.

Firefighting forces ended up being split in two in order to deal with different ends of the growing blaze.

Fire crews were able to stop the fire’s advance on the north end and started focusing on the southern end of the blaze, only to have the wind pick up and blow embers across the containment lines the firefighters had created.

Multiple fire agencies responded to a rapidly spreading fire in a wash running through the Paradise Canyon subdivision in St. George. While one home received minor damage, firefighters were able to contain and quell the fire, St. George, Utah, July 5, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

While having a water line trained on a patch of brush or a cluster of trees on fire, suddenly a spot fire would ignite into being nearby and demand attention as it began to spread.

On both sides of the wash, water lines were attached to every hydrant in sight and the fire engines and ladder trucks equipped with water cannons were being brought to bear on the fire.

During the course of the fire, one home was confirmed to have been damaged by the fire, Stoker said.

Embers from the blaze landed on a home, leading to firefighters having to enter it in order to put out any fires brewing inside.

Some of the ceiling in the home had to be taken down to make sure there were no fires burning in concealed spaces in the attic, Stoker said, adding damage estimates may be around $5,000.

While a horde of firefighters were on scene, possibly between 40-60, if not more, Stoker said, additional St. George Police officers arrived to close off streets so fire crews could tend to the fires without interruption.

Multiple fire agencies responded to a rapidly spreading fire in a wash running through the Paradise Canyon subdivision in St. George. While one home received minor damage, firefighters were able to contain and quell the fire, St. George, Utah, July 5, 2017 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

St. George Police Sgt. Spencer Holmes said some officers at the scene were being treated for smoke inhalation.

As for the possible cause of the fire, Stoker said it appeared to have been a saw being used by a construction crew to cut rebar. Sparks from cutting of the rebar flew into the wash and triggered the fire.

While an ordinance passed by the St. George City Council last month largely dealt with fireworks restrictions in parts of the city, Stoker said it also applied to the acts of grinding, welding and cutting in those same areas due to the potential to cause a fire.

Violations of the ordinance will likely result in a citation issued by the police, as well as being held responsible for fire suppression cost, Stoker said.

Multiple fire agencies responded to a rapidly spreading fire in a wash running through the Paradise Canyon subdivision in St. George. While one home received minor damage, firefighters were able to contain and quell the fire, St. George, Utah, July 5, 2017 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

Fire crews were able to knock down the bulk of the fire by 4 p.m., yet will remain on scene for a few hours afterward, Stoker said.

“We’ve contained it, but we’re still mopping up,” he said, adding that fires like this can take up the majority of the city’s firefighting resources.

If another fire occurred while they were still tending to this one, the city would need to rely on its mutual aid agreements with other fire departments to answer the call.

“Again, be very careful,” Stoker said. “Conditions are very dry and windy. This incident will take a lot of our resources.”

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

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

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

Posted in Flood and Fire, Local, NewsTagged , , ,

1 Comment

  • Real Life July 5, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    You mean your not supposed to cut rebar, and shower sparks into the parched desert scrub on a 110 degree windy day? Who knew?

Leave a Reply