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Red flag fire warnings for southern Utah

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Posted at 7:05 PM, Jun 24, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-24 21:05:24-04

WASHINGTON COUNTY – Fire officials in southern Utah are pointing to a small brush fire near Toquerville as a prime example of what can happen during red flag warning days.

The fire sparked on I-15 near milepost 27, just outside of town. The trailer carrying a sailboat lost a wheel, and the sparks against the road started the flames that quickly ate through about an acre of brush right next to the freeway.

“Fortunately there’s a fire station not very far from here,” said Hurricane Valley Fire Chief Tom Kulmann. “They were able to get to it and keep it in check until other resources came to extinguish the fire and do the mop up.”

The spark jumped about 18 feet from the side of the road into the brush. Kulmann said had firefighters not responded quickly, it could have been much worse. Smoke impaired driving in the area, and crews had the freeway down to one lane while firefighters battled the blaze.

Washington county Fire Warden Adam Heyder said fires like this are the reason the National Weather Service issues red flag warnings.

“It justifies the conditions,”  Heyder said. “That we’re going to see windy conditions so even things that wouldn’t normally cause a fire to escape and take off.”

The NWS has issued red flag warnings for much of Washington and Kane Counties effective until 9 p.m. Monday. That means high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds are a dangerous combination. Something Heyder said is unfortunately common in Southern Utah

“It isn’t abnormal for us to see high temperatures, single digit RHs (relative humidity) and because of the topography, we typically see wind daily,” Heyder said.

That’s why residents are urged to take caution when recreating or working on around the house.

“We’ve also had problems with metal grinding,” said Arizona Strip BLM Public Affairs Manager Rachel Tueller. “That has caused a lot of our human caused fires the last couple of seasons. So we definitely want to educate the public of just being mindful all the time.”

There have already been more than 234 wildfires reported in the state of Utah this year, 182 of which were caused by humans.

For more information on fire restrictions across the state, click here.

For up to date fire conditions, check out the National Weather Service’s website here.