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Brian Head Fire Grows As Fire Conditions Remain High

Dan Nelson
A picture of the patchy firescape within the Brian Head Fire. Officials say it could be weeks before the 49,000-acre wildfire is under control.

Wind has been pushing the nation's largest wildfire fire northward, and firefighters were trying Tuesday to prevent its footprint from growing. But the National Weather Service is expecting hazardous fire conditions for the Brian Head Fire in central Utah to continue.

“A red flag warning is something that we issue that indicates that fire danger is unusually high,” says Monica Traphagen, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Salt Lake City office.

She says temperature, humidity, winds and sometimes lightning factor into the fire-risk warnings.

“We’re in the driest part of the year as we get into late June and early July,” she says. “And, so, we’re seeing very little, if any, precipitation and we’re expecting it to stay dry over the next several days.

A red flag warning is in effect across two-thirds of Utah at least through Wednesday, when cooler air is expected to roll in. And fire officials and the weather service are urging the public to take care not to trigger new fires.

Meanwhile, 1,427 personnel are working to bring the 49,626-acre Brian Head Fire under control. It’s just 10 percent contained after 10 days. Evacuation orders remain in place in eleven southern Utah communities. Dan Nelson checked his family’s vacation cabin near Panguitch Lake over the weekend.

“Our cabin was okay,” he says. “Others weren’t so fortunate.”

Nelson posted video on Twitter from the drive. It shows patches of lush green forest and fire-crew trucks emerging periodically from eerie, smoky landscapes.

He’s grateful firefighters have saved so many cabins.

So far, the Brian Head Fire has destroyed 13 homes and 8 outbuildings.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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