Toquerville fire closes SR-17, homes evacuated; multiple structures burning in Hurricane

TOQUERVILLE — Multiple brush fires are burning in the Hurricane and Toquerville areas Monday afternoon. 

Flames reach the bottom of the hill near the Toquerville, Utah, exit of northbound Interstate 15 in Anderson Junction on May 18, 2020. | Phot by Chris Reed, St. George News

The fire burning north of Toquerville is in the Anderson Junction area and as of 6 p.m has burned 350 acres and destroyed two structures, according to Mike Melton, the area management officer for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. 

The structures destroyed were described as outbuildings. Five homes are under immediate threat, while 20 homes in all have been evacuated.

The fire, named the Anderson Junction Fire, started on state Route 17 near mile marker 5. The highway is currently closed in both directions between mile markers 2 and 6, and motorists are being directed onto state Route 9 as an alternate route, according to an alert from the Utah Department of Transportation.

“The wind is giving us fits,” Melton said, adding that the fire is far from under control. “I’d say not a whole lot, but give us a little time.”

In a span of two hours, the fire completely cleared vegetation on both sides of the hill above the old cement bandstand at Exit 27 of northbound Interstate 15 before the fireline continued heading north.

A Sikorsky Skycrane helicopter performs a fire retardant drop on a brush fire in Anderson Junction near Toquerville, Utah, on May 18, 2000. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

More than seven fire agencies – including Hurricane, Colorado City, Washington City, St. George, Cedar City, Bureau of Land Management, Enterprise and Harmony Valley – had crews fighting the fire on the ground. In the air, four aircraft – two tanker aircraft, a Sikorsky Skycrane helicopter and one drop from a DC-10 fire tanker out of Phoenix, Arizona – were conducting fire retardant drops on the flames.

“We’re working away at it,” Melton said. “Looks like quite a few out here.”

The Anderson Junction Fire started out as five flare-ups, which can be indicative of a chain dragging from a vehicle, setting off sparks.

“It could be something along those lines, but I’m not going to speculate,” Melton said. “Fire’s under investigation (and) appears to be related with Highway 17 in some fashion.”

The area is currently under a wind advisory from the National Weather Service. South winds of 25-35 mph with gusts up to 50 mph is expected in Washington, Iron and Beaver counties until 9 p.m. Monday and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday. 

“It’s right near 90 (degrees), relative humidity is about 10% and the winds been anywhere from 20 miles an hour with gusts up to 30,” Melton said.

Hurricane fire

A structure goes up in flames during the 1450 Fire in Hurricane, Utah, on May 18, 2020. | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

The fire in Hurricane, which has grown to around 50-60 acres, is burning north from 600 East near the Sky Mountain Golf Course. Multiple structures have caught fire or are being threatened.

There were people in houses nearby hosing down around their homes, with plenty of cheatgrass fueling the flames nearby.

Traffic on 600 North traffic was being diverted by Hurricane Police.

The Hurricane, Colorado City, Washington City and St. George fire departments as well as the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service have responded to the fire, which has been dubbed the 1450 Fire.

By Monday evening, the fire in Hurricane was contained and controlled.

St. George News writers Mikayla Shoup and Aspen Stoddard contributed to this report.

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

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