Brian Head Fire continues to spread to the east

The fire has now burned over 54,000 acres.

Above:  On the map above the red line was the perimeter of the Brian Head Fire at 2:30 a.m. MDT June 28, 2017. The white line was the perimeter about 26 hours earlier.

(Originally published at 10:18 a.m. MDT June 28, 2017)
(Updated at 10:24 a.m. MDT June 28, 2017)

The Brian Head Fire continued to spread to the northeast and east on Tuesday, reaching Indian Hollow, and as of 2:30 a.m. Wednesday had burned 54,202 acres, an increase of over 4,500 acres. At that time it was within 6 miles of Panguitch.

Firefighters have made progress on the spot fires and slopovers on the south and east sides of Highway 143. Those areas showed very little if any growth on Tuesday.

Brian Head Fire Yankee Meadow
An Inciweb photo of the Brian Head Fire described as “Yankee Meadow”.

The additional spread of the fire Tuesday was on the northeast and southwest sides.

The weather will again be a problem for firefighters on Wednesday with a Red Flag Warning being in effect for the area. The forecast calls for wind out of the southwest and west at 13 to 15 mph with gusts up to 22 mph. The temperature should reach 69 degrees with a relative humidity bottoming out at 10 percent. Conditions are expected to moderate on Thursday and Friday.

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.

Brian Head Fire was very active Monday afternoon

smoke Brian Head Fire satellite
A satellite captured a photo of smoke created by the Brian Head Fire in Utah at 5:45 p.m. MDT June 26.

The Brian Head Fire east of Cedar City, Utah was influenced by strong winds from the southwest that at times gusted over 40 mph while the relative humidity dipped to five percent.

The intense burning caused a pyrocumulus cloud to develop as the fire and the smoke moved to the northeast. As you can see here, a satellite photographed the smoke plume and it was also detected by radar.

Only judging from the fire intensity shown in these images, I would be surprised if the indirect contingency firelines constructed Sunday by dozers northeast of the fire were able to constrain the blaze as hoped.

smoke radar Brian Head Fire
Radar detected smoke from the Brian Head Fire in Utah at 6:10 p.m. MDT June 26.

Firefighters describe the current wildfire conditions in the Southwest

In this very interesting video posted on June 22, 2017 several firefighters in the southwest part of Utah (where the Brian Head Fire is burning) talk about the current weather and vegetation conditions and how they deal with the extreme heat as they battle wildfires in the Southwest United States. It was produced by Community Education Channel, which “provides students of Dixie State University hands on learning experiences while producing quality Television and LIVE stream community content”.

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.