Utah wildfire levels 13 homes, forces
evacuation of 1,500 people
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[June 28, 2017]
By Gina Cherelus
(Reuters) - A fierce wildfire that has
destroyed more than a dozen homes and forced the evacuation of 1,500
residents raged largely unchecked in southwestern Utah for an 11th day,
as an army of firefighters struggled to corral the flames.
As of Tuesday morning, the blaze had scorched nearly 50,000 acres, the
bulk of that in the Dixie National Forest, with crews managing to carve
containment lines around just 10 percent of the fire's perimeter,
The fire erupted on June 17 near the ski resort of Brian Head, Utah,
about 30 miles northeast of Zion National Park, and spread quickly as
high winds drove flames into dense forests, threatening homes in nearby
The town of Brian Head ordered an evacuation of all residents, and the
number of people forced from their dwellings throughout the fire zone
has climbed to 1,500, according to U.S. Forest Service spokesman Andrew
Local fire spokeswoman Elayn Briggs said at least 13 homes and eight
outbuildings have been demolished since the blaze began but no serious
injuries have been reported.
The fire was ignited by human activity, but officials said they were
still investigating the precise cause.
By Tuesday evening, more than 1,600 firefighters were assigned to the
conflagration, backed by an aerial force of 13 water-dropping
helicopters. Their efforts were hampered by thick stands of highly
combustible dead timber left blighted by bark beetle infestations,
The Brian Head blaze ranks as the largest of 20 major, active wildfires
burning across Utah and five other Western states - Arizona, California,
New Mexico, Idaho and Oregon. Those fires have blackened a total of
150,000 acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in
[to top of second column]
An aerial photo of wildfires burning across almost 50,000 acres near
the ski resort of Brian Head, about 245 miles south of Salt Lake
City, Utah is shown in this handout photo provided June 27, 2017.
Courtesy Lt. Governor Spencer J Cox/Handout via REUTERS
Another large blaze in Arizona dubbed the Frye Fire has charred
nearly 40,000 acres since it was sparked by lightning on June 7 near
Mount Graham, but it was more than 40 percent contained by Tuesday,
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency on Friday,
with more than 20 separate fires burning across the state.
The 1,400 residents of Mayer, Arizona, a town about 75 miles north
of Phoenix, were told to evacuate as a nearby wildfire grew to
18,000 acres on Tuesday afternoon.
"It's burning in an area that hasn't seen fire for 40 years," said
Tiffany Davila, spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Forestry
and Fire Management. "It's tough going right now."
(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York and David Schwartz in
Arizona; Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los
Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Bill Trott and Joseph Radford)
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