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Southern Utah News Front Page: June 23, 2017

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Brian Head fire could be catastrophic

A human-caused fire near the town of Brian Head on Cedar Mountain started Saturday afternoon. The fire is 5 percent contained. Photo courtesy Cigi Burton, Dixie National Forest.

Updated at 10 a.m. Friday, June 23

By Dixie Brunner

High temperatures, strong winds and a heavy fuel load, combined with a human-caused June 17 ignition near the Town of Brian Head, resulting in what some say could be a catastrophic fire. The small mountain community, about 750 people, has been evacuated.

The fire was first reported around 12:20 p.m. Saturday on the northeast side of Brian Head, and rapidly spread upslope.

While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, as of June 23 at 10:30 a.m., the fire has burned 27,724 acres (one acre equivalent to a football field) and was 5 percent contained. There have been 13 residences and eight outbuildings destroyed so far by the fire.

Currently there are 11 helicopters, 34 engines, 23 crews, and a total of 809 personnel fighting the fire.

The fire was originally managed by a Color County Type 2 Incident Management team. Monday morning the Great Basin Type 2 IMT assumed command, with its first priority public and firefighter safety. They are working to protect the many structures and homes near the small resort community.

On the ground, engines and crew are using roads and natural terrain features, such as meadows and ridges, to help contain the fire perimeter.

The weather is expected to remain dry and warm over the coming days, with a chance of thunderstorms later in the week. A Red Flag Warning is in effect for Friday and Saturday! The fire started burning on lands managed by Utah Department of Natural Resources, but Tuesday crept into Dixie National Forest.

Besides the community of Brian Head, Panguitch Lake, Horse Valley, Beaver Dam, Blue Springs, Rainbow Meadows, Mammoth Creek, Dry Lakes and Second Left Hand Canyon are under evacuation and will remain so until fire managers are sure the threat of fire impact is gone. Highway 143 is closed. The Forest Service has issued road and trail closures as well.

Governor Herbert toured the Brian Head fire scene Tuesday afternoon.

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