Crews report progress in fight against Southern Utah wildfire

Jun 11 2011 - 10:44pm

ST. GEORGE -- Crews reported progress in their battle Saturday against a human-caused wildfire that forced a temporary evacuation of residents on the Shivwits Band of Paiutes Reservation in Southern Utah.

The 1,250-acre Barn Fire burning on the reservation about 10 miles northwest of St. George was about 50 percent contained late Saturday afternoon, said Nick Howell, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

He said the blaze prompted the evacuation of about 20 homes Friday on the reservation, and had burned Saturday within a quarter mile of homes in the community of Kayenta.

The fire destroyed one barn, but no damage to homes or injuries were reported.

"Kayenta is considered to be on watch if the fire makes another run," Howell said. "The winds are still gusty and could cause us some problems if they pick up.

"But the firefighters are making a lot of progress. We haven't seen the forecasted winds that we thought, so that has worked out to our advantage. We hope to have the fire 75 percent contained by Saturday night," he added.

The fire was sparked Friday by two men using a cutting torch on a project, Howell said, adding it's the 15th human-caused wildfire in the last three weeks in an area stretching from central Utah to the Arizona border.

Other blazes have been caused by machinery as well as by parts falling off vehicles.

"We've had a lot of human-caused fires lately and we're trying to throw out a reminder to people (who live near wildlands) that they need to start thinking about defensible space for their homes and property," he said. "We're also trying to remind people that it doesn't take much to start a wildfire because we have a lot of cheatgrass down here after a heavy winter."

The Barn Fire was burning cheatgrass, brush, and pinyon and juniper trees.

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