Fire burning in Hamlin Valley adds to year of increase in human-caused fires

The Cougar Fire is under investigation as a human cause, Beaver County, Utah, Aug. 16, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management Color Country District, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Another human-caused fire that ignited Sunday afternoon is blazing west of Cedar City in the Hamlin Valley area of Beaver County.

The fire, now known as the Cougar Fire, was reported at around 1:45 p.m. on Sunday burning far west of Cedar City in Hamlin Valley near Cougar Spar in Beaver County on public land. The fire is burning through pinyon, juniper, sagebrush and grass, and has grown to approximately 475 acres and is 0% contained.

Nick Howell, BLM Color Country Interagency public information officer, told St. George News there has been some difficulty in accessing the fire as there are not many roads in the area. Cougar Spar Road and all unpaved roads within the fire area are closed.

In terms of fire growth, it’s a little too early to tell, Howell said, but the fire activity so far has been abnormal.

“It was burning west and south, which is kind of weird. Most of our fires with the prevailing south, southwest winds, they burn to the north, northwest,” he said. “The fire was actually moving south and downhill, more towards the Hamlin Valley Road.”

The area where the fire is burning is remote with no cell service. Whether the smoke seen in St. George Monday morning is related to the Cougar Fire, Howell said it most likely is not.

“I would suspect we’re still getting a little bit of drift smoke from neighboring states. The Cougar Fire, with it only being 500 acres, I would doubt that it’s impacting St. George to much extent if any,” he said.

The Cougar Fire is under investigation as a human cause, Beaver County, Utah, Aug. 16, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management Color Country District, St. George News

Howell said by 3 or 4 p.m. on Monday, they should have a better idea of whether the fire is going “to make another run,” adding that weather conditions are expected to be fairly similar to Sunday, with slightly higher temperatures.

Some structures are threatened, he said. There are some cabins in the area as well as camp trailers and people recreating. No evacuations or injuries have been reported.

A Color Country Interagency Type 3 Team is managing the fire. Nine fire engines, two dozers, two hand crews, three water tenders, one helicopter, four single-engine air tankers and a large air tanker have been assigned to the fire. More resources are expected to arrive later on Monday.

Howell said this is a human-caused fire and is under investigation.

“Our human-caused fires for southwest Utah are way up this year,” he said. “We’ve been having a ton of problems — even with fire restrictions — we’re still having a lot of issues with human-caused fires.”

Many of these upward trends are along the travel corridors, he said, from things such as vehicles dragging chains, blown tires and a lack of vehicle maintenance.

“We are still having problems with campfires,” he said. “There are people who are still engaging in those activities even against fire restrictions.”

Fireworks, too, have also been a contributing factor, he said. But the two primary trends of human-caused fire are vehicle-related and open fires. In addition to the dry, hot weather conditions and lack of rain, Howell said another factor for the increase in human-caused fires has to do with an uptick in people being outside this year.

“There’s just a lot more people on public lands, a lot more people recreating outdoors,” he said.

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

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