Fire chiefs warn about handling controlled burns after runaway fire in Ivins City

IVINS CITY — Area residents who may be planning to burn debris over the next week in a controlled burn are asked to be mindful of increasingly dry conditions in the wake of burns that have gotten out of hand.

Santa Clara-Ivins Firefighters respond to a runaway controlled burn on 800 South in Ivins, Utah, May 9, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“Everybody’s trying to get their burning done before the end of the month,” Santa Clara-Ivins Fire Chief Randy Hancey said Saturday afternoon after responding to a controlled burn that went wild in the area of 200 East and 800 South.

“We’ve had several (fires) in the last week that started as controlled burns and got away from people too quickly,” he said. “Things are real dry and (the fire) starts spreading, and before people know it, its out of control and they can’t handle it, so the fire department gets called in to take care of it.”

Because of the ongoing issue of controlled burns going out of control, fire chiefs in the area have decided to instruct their respective cities to end the burn season on May 17, Hancey said.

That was the case for the property owner who lit a controlled burn in a small field along 800 South in Ivins City Saturday. Conditions were drier than expected, Hancey said, and the fire spread quickly – particularly after reaching some tamarisk bushes.

Tamarisk is a nonnative, invasive planet species in Southern Utah that is also highly flammable, especially in dense conditions.

Santa Clara-Ivins Firefighters respond to a runaway controlled burn on 800 South in Ivins City, Utah, May 9, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The Santa Clara-Ivins Fire Department responded to the runaway fire around 12:45 p.m. and had it beat down in short order before it spread too far. Flames did reach the exterior of a small, brick-built shed with communications equipment inside, but did not make it inside. Firefighters were also able to use a sprinkler line at that location to provide a barrier between the fire and a field of alfalfa growing next to the burn site.

No injuries were reported in connection with the fire.

Recently, state and federal fire officials warmed of a potentially challenging and dangerous fire season this year due to how dry is it expected to become following another wet winter that produced a new batch of burn-ready vegetation.

According to fire managers, an estimated 50% of the wildfire ignited in Southwest Utah annually are human-caused.

“Just be safe. Have a water source close by,” Hancey said for those still planning controlled burns. “Again, it’s a lot drier with the heat and temperatures we’re getting. People are wanting to get their burning done, so just be careful. It’s a lot drier than people expect right now.”

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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