Team of firefighters spring into action to save home threatened by out of control weed burn

ST. GEORGE — A team of full-time and volunteer firefighters from multiple units responded to the scene of an out of control brush fire Friday afternoon that could have threatened several nearby homes and structures.

Scene of a brush fire nestled up against the red cliffs of St. George, Utah, May 15, 2020 | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

At around 1:30 p.m., the St. George Fire Department received a call for a small brush fire burning wildly at the end of a culdesac nestled up against the red cliff face near 160 W. Circle and 580 North.

Three engines and the department’s pumper/ladder combination truck answered the call, along with other units onsite to assist.

When units arrived, they discovered the fire was burning in a difficult to reach area at the end of a long driveway on a flag lot, which made accessing water a challenge. Crews had to string out hundreds of feet of line from a distant corner hydrant in order to douse the flames.

Witnesses reported seeing smoke from the same lot the day before without incident, but St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker told St. George News the afternoon’s windy conditions helped play a part in the gentleman who owns the property losing control of his burn.

The homeowner, who had a permit to burn, was attempting to clear his property of unwanted weeds at the end of his long driveway. As he went to spray the fire with water, for some unknown reason his water source died and the fire began to spread.

Scene of a brush fire nestled up against the red cliffs of St. George, Utah, May 15, 2020 | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

Stoker said the location where the fire started was in an area where there is a lot of spring water seeping from the rocks, spurring some heavy vegetative growth in drainage pockets, and once it started burning, it really began to take off.

“It did get burning quite heavily in some of that heavier brush,” he said. “He was doing everything that he should of been doing according to the permit process, but as the wind kicked up where it’s up in that little canyon, it kind of got breezy right through there blowing uphill.”

Stoker said their main concern at first was just stopping the spread before it climbed up the hill, and they immediately deployed the pumper/ladder in case the fire started moving too quickly. Firefighters hooked up to the hydrant for a supply line to their engine and they used hand lines to attack the blaze.

There are several flag lots in St. George, a few in the immediate area that are tough to access water from, and Stoker said they always have to pre-plan what is needed for manpower and equipment.

“These areas, where they’re high up on the hill with limited access, make it pretty difficult with our accessibility.”

The scene took around 90 minutes to clear as firefighters cleared out the dead brush and mopped up the hot spots to ensure no more flame ups happen later in the day.

“No damage to speak of,” he said. “Our main concern was the structures above, which ended up being his home, so we were able to get it stopped in the ledges prior to where it got into their gazebo and a few things up there.”

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