Brian Head Fire 60% contained as residents, business owners return from evacuation

Posted at 5:36 PM, Jun 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-01 00:06:10-04

SOUTHERN UTAH -- The town of Brian Head lifted evacuations Friday morning, and people started arriving for the holiday weekend.

As of Friday night, the Brian Head Fire has burned an estimated 59,956 acres and is 60% contained.

Businesses turned on their 'open' signs, and Brian Head Resort worked to get their summer activities ready.

Crews put together the zip line, erected the rock climbing wall and hammered banners into the ground.

The resort officially opens on Saturday for the summer season, which is one week later than what they scheduled. They spent two days rushing to get everything ready, after the nearly two-week  evacuation of the town.

"We scrambled a little bit, but we got it back together," said Mark Wilder, who runs public relations for Brian Head Resort.

The Brian Head Fire burned close to town, but narrowly missed it, thanks to the work of firefighters.

One cabin in the area burned down, and the fire did claim 13 cabins total. Now, the fire is moving to the north, and crews are making progress to contain the southern edge that borders the town.

"We're very grateful to the firefighters, and very glad that we can welcome people back to the mountain," Wilder said.

And it's just in time. Town manager Bret Howser said the Fourth of July weekend is typically one of the busiest for the summer season.

Wilder said the resort decided to move ahead with their planned events and activities, despite the long shut-down leading up to the weekend.

"We felt it was important to step right up front and be leading that whole effort," he said, talking about the effort to come together and celebrate.

Calls have been coming in from all over the country, he said, of people excited to get back to town.

Even though Highway 143 is still closed clear out to Parowan in the west, and Panguitch Lake Resort in the east, Highway 148 is open to the south through Cedar Breaks National Monument.

He and Howser both said they hope to see a busy holiday weekend, as they return to normal.

"We all pulled together, and we'll be okay," he said, adding, "We'll come through this, and probably stronger in the long run."