Brian Head Fire slowed Sunday, but strong winds predicted for Monday

The spread of the Brian Head Fire east of Cedar City, Utah slowed on Sunday adding only 636 acres which was much less than in recent days. It has now burned a total of 43,436 acres.

The fire was still advancing Sunday on the north and south sides. The east flank has moved into lighter fuels (vegetation) which offers less resistance to control than heavier fuels found on the north and south sides. The west flank in the Brian Head area has been fairly stable for a couple of days except for an area northeast of town inside the Dixie National Forest.

red flag warning utah wildfire
Red Flag Warnings are in effect Monday for areas in Utah and five other states.

The weather will change on Monday, with Red Flag Warnings in effect for southwest winds gusting up to 39 mph in the afternoon while the relative humidity bottoms out at 12 percent. This could challenge firefighters on the north side and test the contingency lines constructed in that area on Sunday.

Evacuations are still in place for many areas. 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 crew in the photo below is from Colorado and usually consists of only five people.

Brian Head Fire expands across Highway 143

Above: The red line on the map represents the perimeter of the Brian Head Fire at 2:30 a.m. MDT June 25, 2017. The white line was the perimeter about 28 hours earlier.

(UPDATED at 9:28 p.m. MDT Sunday June 25, 2017)

There was only minimal growth Sunday on the Brian Head Fire east of Cedar City, Utah. The weather cooperated with firefighters who were able to work on securing firelines.

Incident Commander Tim Roide described the activity on the fire today:

It was a good day for firefighters, who were able to have success securing areas of particular concern, including the many structures affected by the Brian Head Fire.

A Red Flag Warning is in effect for southwest Utah through 10 p.m Monday night.

With the weather forecast for Monday predicting southwest winds of 12 to 15 mph with gusts in the mid-20’s and humidities in the mid-teens, the Incident Management team made the decision to use dozers to build indirect contingency firelines out ahead of what could be additional growth in the Horse Valley area. Air tankers bolstered those new lines by dropping fire retardant adjacent to the dozer lines expecting that if the fire makes a run in that direction the combination of the bare dirt line and the retardant would increase their chances of preventing the fire from crossing their freshly prepared defenses.

Fire retardant is normally wet, of course, and if conditions are right with few airborne embers travelling far in advance of the main fire front, retardant can slow the spread, giving firefighters on the ground a chance to move in and take direct action. But even when it has dried, the chemicals still interfere with the process of combustion and can affect the rate of spread of the flames.

The plans for crews on Monday include continuing to secure the southern perimeter of the fire to slow its progression toward Mammoth Creek.

Kim Martin’s Type 1 Incident Management Team will assume command Monday morning of the east half of the fire. The existing Type 2 Team will remain on the West side working out of Parowan.

Evacuations are still in place for many areas. Highway 143 is closed from the cemetery in Parowan to milepost 50 outside of Panguitch and Mammoth Creek Road is closed at the junction with Highway 143.

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(UPDATED at 12:24 p.m. MDT Sunday June 25, 2017)

The Brian Head Fire in southwest Utah continued to grow on Saturday, adding another 5,000 acres, to bring the total to 42,800 acres. Evacuations are still in effect for several areas.

A significant development Saturday was the spread of the fire across Highway 143 in two places burning approximately 700 acres south of the highway as of 2:30 a.m. on Sunday. No doubt the firefighters were counting on using the highway as a fireline, hoping to stop it at that point. One factor in their favor is that east of the 406/050 road and south of Highway 143 the fuel (vegetation) is sparse in many areas and is not continuous. West of that road and south of Highway 143 more fuel is available and the fire will offer more resistance to control.

Sunday morning the Incident Management Team provided some information about the spread of the fire across the highway:

Firefighters quickly responded and minimized the spread of these fires. Through the night, resources continued work on containment of these spot fires.

Brian Head Fire
In this photo of the Brian Head Fire, Yankee Meadows is at the top-right. We believe this photo was taken by the Incident Management Team.

There has been no change in the number of structures reportedly destroyed; it remains at 26.

Either on Sunday or Monday a Type 1 Incident Management Team will assume command of the eastern half of the fire. The Type 2 Team will remain in Parowan and the Type 1 Team will be based at the Triple C Arena in Panguitch. The two organizations will work together to protect the values at risk and coordinate the full suppression of the fire.

Brian Head Fire map
Satellite photo of the Brian Head Fire, June 24, 2017.

Resources assigned to the fire include 29 hand crews, 41 engines, 10 helicopters, a variable number of air tankers, and a total of 996 personnel.

Brian Head Fire Pilatus PC12 Colorado Utah
One of Colorado’s Pilatus PC12’s, N327F, was orbiting the Brian Head Fire June 25, 2016. The aircraft has multiple sensing systems and can transmit live video to firefighters on the ground.
Colorado's Pilatus PC12 N327F
One of the two Pilatus PC12’s owned by Colorado, N327F, was photographed in March of 2016 in Sacramento. Today, June 25, 2017, it is assisting at the Brian Head Fire in southwest Utah.

 

More homes and acres burn in Brian Head Fire in southwest Utah

Above: A 3-D map of the perimeter of the Brian Head Fire as of 10:30 p.m. MDT June 23, 2017.

The Brian Head Fire in southwest Utah continued to burn structures Friday. At the end of the day the Incident Management Team reported that 26 have been destroyed, double the number from Thursday.

The fire also blackened an additional 10,000 acres bringing the total up to 37,560.

As of Saturday night the fire had spread to the south approaching the closed Highway 143 in several places but has not crossed it. Most of the expansion on Saturday was on the south and southeast sides.

Tim Roide’s Great Basin Type 2 Incident Management Team is not providing a great deal of information about the fire, but as of Friday evacuations were still in effect in several areas. They have been producing a daily update, but on Inciweb the Team suggests searching for the generic hashtag #BrianHeadFire to find information provided by others.

map Brian Head Fire
Map of the perimeter of the Brian Head Fire as of 10:30 p.m. MDT June 23, 2017. Click to enlarge.

Firefighting resources assigned to the fire include 10 Type 1 hand crews, 13 Type 2 hand crews, 4 Type 1 helicopters, 5 other helicopters, 40 engines, and a total of 836 personnel.

Be sure and click on the photos below a couple of times to see larger versions… especially the one on the left.

Brian Head Fire in Utah burns 13 homes

The fire doubled in size between Wednesday night and Thursday night.

Strong winds on Thursday spread the Brian Head Fire much farther to the south and east, adding another 16,800 acres, bringing the total to 27,700. The Utah Department of Natural Resources said 13 homes and 8 outbuildings have been destroyed in the communities near Brian Head, Utah as the fire spread down Clear Creek.

Southern Utah University is opening their dorms to displaced residents of the fire ravaged town of Brian Head. The University will have room for up to 60 people. Those interested can call George Colton, Red Cross Site Director, at (435) 879-9033.

map Brian Head Fire Utah
3-D map of the Brian Head Fire as of 1 a.m. MDT June 23, 2017.

Highway 143 is closed from the cemetery in Parowan to milepost 50 outside of Panguitch.

The weather for Friday and Saturday should bring temperatures around 70, relative humidity in the low teens, and winds out of the northwest to northeast at 5 to 10 mph with gusts in the high teens. There will be virtually no humidity recovery at night; it will be no higher than the 20’s for the next two nights. For Sunday through Friday the nighttime humidity will be below 40 percent and in the teens during the day. This could allow the fire to remain active 24 hours a day. Monday through Wednesday will bring 20 mph winds, which could be problematic for firefighters.

Brian Head Fire, from video uploaded to Inciweb June 21, 2017.

Wildfire forces evacuation of Brian Head, Utah

Above: The Brian Head Fire at Brian Head, Utah. Photo by Iron County Sheriff’s Office, posted June 17, 2017.

The Brian Head Fire has burned at least one home in the town by the same name, which is 12 miles east of Cedar City, Utah. As of Saturday evening the fire had burned about 957 acres on the north side of the town near the Dixie National Forest. Multiple structures are threatened.

The fire was reported at 12:20 p.m. on June 17 and caused the evacuation of all 500 residents of the town.

A Type 3 Incident Management Team was due to arrive Saturday evening, and a Type 2 Team is expected at mid-day on Sunday.

Brian Head Fire 3-d map
A 3-D map showing the approximate location of the Brian Head Fire as of 4:30 a.m. MDT June 18, 2017.
Brian Head Fire map
Satellite photo showing smoke from the Brian Head Fire June 17, 2017.

An inversion early Sunday morning trapped smoke, degrading visibility to the point where firefighting aircraft could not be used, but by noon MDT two Air Tractor 802A Single Engine Air Tankers were working the fire. They were reloading at Cedar City 12 miles away so they undoubtedly had short turnarounds in spite of the 4,000-foot climb from the air tanker base to the fire.

Brian Head Fire air tanker
Flight paths of a Single Engine Air Tanker working the Brian Head Fire at 12:50 p.m. MDT June 18, 2017.

The wind on Saturday was from the northwest, but on Sunday it shifted to come out of the north. As you can see in the image above, at about noon on Saturday the flight paths of one of the Single Engine Air Tankers were concentrated south of Brian Head, on the west side of Cedar Breaks National Monument.

The wind on Saturday is predicted to be out of the north at 8 to 10 mph with gusts to 13. The relative humidity should be in the mid-20’s and the temperature will be in the high 60’s. The coolish temperatures are due to the altitude — 8,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level in the fire area, which is about 4,000 feet higher than Cedar City.

The impressive video below posted by the Iron County Sheriff Office shows an air tanker dropping retardant apparently into heavy smoke. Perhaps there were structures or firefighters, or both, threatened in that area.