Brian Head Fire spreads another 4 miles to northeast

The fire has now burned almost 50,000 acres.

(UPDATED at 8:37 p.m. MDT June 27, 2017)
(Originally published at 8 a.m. MDT June 27, 2017)

Map Brian Head Fire
Map of the Brian Head Fire. The red squares represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:40 p.m. MDT June 27, 2017. The red line was the perimeter at 12:11 a.m. MDT June 27, 2017. Click to enlarge.

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Strong southwest winds gusting over 40 mph combined with relative humidity of five percent to push the Brian Head Fire in Utah another four miles to the northeast. Flames rising to 100 feet were reported by firefighters. The big run Monday afternoon added another 6,190 acres to bring the total burned area to 49,626. More fire activity south of Highway 143 resulted in another 200 acres burned east of the 050 Road.

The weather conditions on Tuesday will not be as severe as Monday, but could still result in significant additional spread of the fire while a Red Flag Warning in effect. The forecast for the fire area calls for 73 degrees, relative humidity of 9 percent, and southwest winds of 10 to 17 mph gusting up to 24.

smoke Goodwinda and Brian Head Fires
At 7:37 p.m. MDT a satellite photographed smoke from the Goodwin and Brian Head Fires.

With that forecast in mind, firefighters are looking several miles north of the fire to where the fuels change from old-growth timber to sage and grass, which should result in more successful suppression efforts.

Evacuations are still in effect for many areas and Highway 143 is closed from the cemetery in Parowan to milepost 50 outside of Panguitch. Mammoth Creek Road is closed at the junction with Highway 143. The north side gate of 143/148 is closed. The Dixie National Forest has expanded its area closure to include Forest lands north of Highway 14.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills. Google+

21 thoughts on “Brian Head Fire spreads another 4 miles to northeast”

  1. Can’t even spray the forest to protect the infestation of the beetle …. dad trees everywhere fBECAUSE OF THE BEETTLE …..ABSOLUTELY NOT GLOBAL WARMING … SUCH STUPIDITY IS COSTING US OUR BEAUTIFUL FORESTS …

      1. Good luck Bill, they are looking for scapegoats. The beetle, poor forest management, environmental groups are the top of the list. I have played in the Brian Head area many moons ago, while the number of cabins was amazing then, say 15-20 years ago, the number now is troubling. I am almost positive that aggressive but safe action to prevent the spotting over highway 143 was prevented because the troops were protecting these structures.

        When we plop structures without planning, fuel breaks, proper infrastructure, then circumstances come together as they have, all hell breaks lose. These naysayers, many cabin owners need to look at the big picture. Yes, global warming…warming has given the beetle the ability to range throughout the western US. The deep cold that use to keep them in check may be a thing of the past. Forest Management costs money while the removal, logging of these trees is almost ridiculous, they have little if any commercial value and treatment of the area around Brian Head would have cost tens of millions of dollars. Prescribe fire is a great idea but cabin owners are weary, the public doesn’t understand the cost/benefits; yes, it requires planning, funding, and long-term commitment. The fuels/forest around Brian Head were a mess and the situation has not improved.

        The circumstances of this ongoing incident need to be revisited: Sustained drought for over 10 years, unchecked growth of the immediate Brian Head community and the surrounding cabin groups, poor commitment to pro-active management by local, state, and federal agencies, and lack of resources…money. A dangerous combination. Stop the scapegoating and let us all look in the mirror, while looking at the big picture, solutions…?

        1. I think the answer is to MANAGE the area by man or nature. In 1974 the area was in pretty good health, but the trees were showing that some were mature with some starting to die. Many in the forest service had seen this and had started to prepare sales and transportation systems to allow the harvest to begin. The “so called environmentalists” were doing their thing to stop this from happening. One district ranger stop progress on harvesting because of the pressure from them decided to cancel the operation, against many forest personnel objections. It was a short time before the bark beetle moved in and now we see what has happened since. Either man would manage it or mother nature would, and she would use a wide brush which she did. Here we are. Lets just hope the fire does not cross over 143.

        2. Yes, UTAH public lands not Federal. Those who live closest to the issues are most often the best at their management. Too much interference from outside entities has screwed up our lands throughout the west. Funny, this isn’t an issue in the east…. wonder why?

    1. you are exactly right…Forest Service was prevented from spraying a 2 acre beetle infestation near Mule Creek.. That’s where it started. Thank the tree huggers who succsessfully obtained an injunction to prevent spraying! That cost us the whole forest resulting in an abundance of fuel on the forest floor! Think about the affect this will have on the animal population this winter with no food to eat…I predict a major kill off in deer this winter.

      1. You do know that the beetles are in the forest always. If trees are healthy they can reject the beetles. They do not spread like a human disease, they take advantage of weakened forests. They would not spread from one isolated patch.

        We just finished my second wave of beetles, first in the 70s and then in the early 2010s. Forest management does help, but most areas are not economical for loggers. Loggers like to clear, I get that, they don’t really thin.

    2. Over 60 million acres of Western forests have experienced massive die-offs from mountain pine beetle infestation, and you think it happened because people weren’t allowed to spray? It happened because of misguided fire suppression, warmer temperatures, and extended drought, the latter two factors exacerbated if not caused by global warming.

    1. They took care of it in some ways. They collected the dead brush and timber and put it into hundreds of teepee-shaped stacks 6-10 feet tall scattered throughout the live trees, and then waited for the piles to catch fire someday rather than get rid of them. This was a man-caused disaster waiting to happen.

      Those beetles destroyed a lot of timber, which is sad, but if we spray for them, what else do we kill collaterally? If we interfere with nature, are we doing the right thing? Maybe we could have prevented the disaster by removing the dead trees and using them for fuel rather than letting them burn out of control and take healthy trees along the way?

    2. Twenty five to thirty years ago the forest service was trying to manage the forest in a way that would sustain a healthy mountain. The beetle, mistletoe, and high density trees were making the forest unhealthy. The Dixie National Forest tried to sell timber permits to logging companies to help the forest combat many of the problems it was experiencing and would continue to experience in the future if not resolved. Logging would have limited the spread of the beetle which spread unchecked for decades and into other forest systems. Mistletoe would not have been as big of problem and the trees could be properly thinned for new growth and maintaining enough old growth to keep wildlife thriving. This would not have been at the expense of the tax payer because logging companies could have been required to log according to prudent forestry practices. When the Dixie Forest put out bids to log they were sued by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), Friends of the Dixie, and others to the extend that logging was essentially prevented. Local communities like Panguitch, Escalante, and others lost local businesses and jobs because of these law suits. The purpose of the law suits were to prevent the loss of habitat for the Mexican spotted owl and the Goshawk. The law suits basically handcuffed the Forest Service in this area to the point the forest could not be managed. The forest was ripe for the fire destruction that has come this past 10 days because of the law suits of the past. The fire, whether man initiated or lightning initiated was going to happen. Now where are the goshawks going to nest and feed, and how well will other animals survive over the next few years until a habit returns that can sustain them? Erosion will now be worse and and the carbon footprint of this fire is significant. There needs to be a change in the manner forests are maintained and preserved and to keep special interest people and organizations out of the process. We needed and still need a common sense approach. Hopefully those who prevented the the proper management of the forest will see their mistakes and now invest their money to jump start the recovery process.

      1. I wish that would happen, but as with many political slogans and names, they are just the reverse of what they state… so it is with the so-called friends of Dixie.

      2. If logging is necessary to maintain a healthy forest, can you please explain to me how forests managed to remain healthy before humans came along to log them?

        1. As with everything, nature is the manager of last resort and also the most drastic. But when man is a part of the evironment, and if we want to live in the forest areas, we have to manage them so that nature doesn’t do drastic things like what is happening now. The only difference is that man can ameliorate the results better than nature, if not hampered by Federal bureaucratic and activist red tape.

  2. I did a research paper on the subject of the bark beetle…the infestation is a national disaster at this point and has decimated a lot of the Northwest, over several states. The most effective treatment so far (unless the info was outdated in 2017) is the use of pheromone capsules that are hung on trees, spaced one per acre, on a grid system. In some of the tracked areas, the losses went down to less than 1% overall. Essentially, the beetles are afraid that a predatory insect has released pheromone into the area, and it doesn’t want to become dinner, so it does not breed or feed in that area. It’s highly effective and harmless, not even poisonous. Google it!

  3. This just further underscores why these lands need to be managed by the sovereign States, as the Constitution first indicated and the Northwest Ordinance clarified. Enough with the Federal mismanagement and bureaucratic bungling by Congress and past Presidents. It is time to resolve this issue.

  4. I absolutely love the commentary!
    For sure, the government screwed this all up!
    Hell, they probably were the ones who practically started the fire with all their restrictions.
    If only we had the chance we could have logged out all that beetle killed wood and made the forest healthy again!
    Give me a break. You people are ridiculous. You have no concept of how nature works. Everyone thinks their actions do no harm. All you want to do is ride your atv all over everything, build cabins everywhere and remove the dead trees that CREATES the soil, the habitat, the micro-organisms and the entire environment for the forests of the future. Where do you think the young, renewed forests come from “magic”? Out of thin air?
    Have you ever tried to grow a garden? Well a forest is basically a GIANT, complex garden and requires constant replenishing of the nutrients, minerals, organisms, water, etc. Duh…
    You want to see a healthy forest?
    Go over to Great Basin NP and hike up to Baker Lake.
    Its managed as a WILDERNESS.
    That’s right. You have to hike up there on your own two feet. God forbid!
    No cell phones. No tv. No electricity. No cars. No ATVS. NO CABINS. NO roads. No BS.
    Just pure FOREST in all states of living and dying, doing its thing without dumb people messing it up. There are trees everywhere, growing, falling apart, sprouting, blowing over.
    Who are you kidding?
    The Dixie Forest up on the plateau has looked and felt beat down for a long time.
    Logging, houses, beetles, atvs, etc drove that forest into the ground…and now it is torched because some moron was burning weeds.
    So it goes. This fire will wipe the slate clean and nature will eventually rebuild it, long after we have gone.
    The idea that humans could manage anything that complex is a joke!
    All we care about is ourselves and our short term greed.
    You want something to “grow”? You have to give back to it, feed it, tend it, nourish it.
    The environment ain’t an endless well that we can just suck up.
    This is the truth. It is the real lesson of the Brianhead Fire.

  5. With 33 years of wild land firefighting behind me, I’ve seen incredible destruction as a result of the best intended practices. 30 days in Yellowstone 1988 was the most memorable. Having vacationed in Brianhead, Cedar Breaks, and Yankee Meadows for many years past with family, I found it to be a bitter pill to take when my brother said; “cherish your memories, Yankee will never be the same in our lifetime…”. There’s plenty of blame to be assigned, question is, who’s willing to step up, volunteer to get their hands dirty, and rehab the damage. If you’re a friend of the Dixie, step up, lots of work to be done….

  6. this that and the other,,,pick a “Blame”, assign guilt, get angry, let your emotions rule.. none of these things will help. The Forests have many many contributing factors as to the “Why” and we can guess the “How”. We want what we want, when we want it, without forethought of consequences. There is a balance to be had, and there are things we all can do to help change, but not until we realize that we all at some level want these lands “Managed for the Aesthetic” meaning we do not want what we see to ever change. I want my children, grand children and so on to have the same memories of this place at this moment in time. We live a mere 100 years if we are lucky, so we manage for what we want to see… we need to change that way of thinking. We need to hold the developers, and landowners accountable for building in these places and not taking precautions to do their part to be a part of where they build. We need to hold the land managers accountable for better solutions to sustainable resources. We need to think about long term effects of “Managing for the Aesthetic”. It is easy to be part of the problem, but harder still to be a part of the solution….

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