ST. GEORGE — A fire that started along the Arizona stretch of northbound Interstate 15 in the Virgin River Gorge on Thursday evening has grown to nearly 1,000 acres.
Update June 25, 6 p.m., The Bureau of Land Management is reporting the Mile Marker 25 Fire is at 40% containment and has confirmed the fire to be human caused. Photos also added.
Called the Mile Marker 25 Interstate 15 Fire, the blaze began around 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Cedar Pocket area around mile marker 25 of I-15 and has had impacted traffic since its ignition.
As of Friday afternoon, the right lane of northbound I-15 through the area has been closed by the Arizona Department of Transportation, according to a press release from the Bureau of Land Management. It is expected to remain closed until 6 p.m.
The closure is in place to “assist with firefighter safety and allow resources access to better manage the fire. Signs are in place to help direct traffic,” Rachel Carnahan, of the BLM, said in the release. “We appreciate the public’s assistance and patience in maintaining firefighter safety through this incident.”
The fire, which had been reported at 200 acres late Thursday night, has since grown to 950 acres and has yet to be contained. One acre is considered equivalent to the size of one football field. As of Friday evening, the fire is 40% contained, according to the BLM
“Gusty and erratic afternoon and evening winds June 24 created issues with containment,” Carnahan said in the release. “The fire burned actively through the night and picked up intensity in the early morning. Resources are going direct utilizing aerial resources with retardant and hand crews.”
Thus far, no structures are threatened by the fire and no injuries have reported in connection to it.
The BLM confirmed Friday evening that the fire is suspected to be human-caused.
As the fire began to spread Thursday evening, Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire Captain Deborah Gates told St. George News via text the fire appeared to be moving north toward the Utah border. Part of the road was also shut down at this time to provide clearance for aircraft to drop retardant on the fire.
Federal, state and local resources have responded to the fire in addition to the aerial support.
These resources include nine fire engines from BLM Utah and Arizona agencies, the U.S Forest Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs. Local response includes two cooperator engines and their fire crews from the Beaver Dam-Littlefield Arizona Fire District and Lincoln County, Nevada.
Additional resources include a hot shot team, two hand crews, two water tenders and various aerial support craft, which includes the use of heavy air support tankers.
Gates said the St. George Fire Department also responded early on Thursday, though was likely released from the fire as the St. George Fire crews are specialized for urban conditions and not necessarily widespread wildland fires.
While the cause of the fire has yet to be determined, fire officials have previously stated that a common cause of wildfires along the highway through the Virgin River Gorge tends to be unsecured chains dragged behind vehicles. These chains that throw off sparks as they are dragged along the road surface can ignite the nearby brush alongside the roadway.
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