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PM News Brief: St. George Arson, Fire Restrictions Lifted & Hunting And Fishing Access

Lexi Peery
An arsonist lit fires at three Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints buildings in St. George early Tuesday morning. This story and more in the Tuesday evening news brief.

Tuesday evening, Aug. 31, 2021

Southern Utah

Man Starts Fires At Three Places Of Worship In St. George  

An arsonist lit fires at three Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints buildings in St. George early Tuesday morning. Law enforcement chased Benjamin Johnson and eventually detained him inside Zion National Park. Johnson was booked into the Washington County jail Tuesday. He’s been charged with arson, reckless driving and fleeing. St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker said the buildings will likely be closed for a few months. Stoker said several state and federal agencies are involved with the investigation. He said since houses of worship were involved, it’s being looked into as a hate crime. — Lexi Peery, St. George 

State And Federal Officials Lift Fire Restrictions In Southeastern Utah 

Fire restrictions in Southeast Utah are set to be lifted Wednesday morning. State and federal officials said the easing of restrictions is due to recent rain and cooler temperatures. Fires will be allowed again on state and private lands in Grand, Carbon, Emery and San Juan counties. They’ll also be permitted at Canyonlands and Arches National Parks as well as Natural Bridges and Hovenweep National Monuments. Still, officials are asking people to be aware. They say you should keep a shovel, water or an extinguisher with you and always completely drown and stir campfires before leaving. — Ross Terrell


Gov. Spencer Cox Gives First COVID Update In Nearly A Month  

During his first COVID-19 update in nearly a month, Gov. Spencer Cox shared a dire message about the state of Utah’s health care system. On Tuesday, he said there was a point last week when there were no ICU beds available in the state. That’s the first time that’s happened since the start of the pandemic. As a result of climbing cases and hospitalizations, health care experts pleaded for people to get vaccinated and wear masks. Cox said he plans to meet with the state Legislature to discuss possible responses to the ongoing pandemic. The state health department reported 485 people are currently hospitalized due to the virus. Read the full story.Emily Means

Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints Members Split On COVID Vaccines 

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints remain deeply divided on vaccines and mask-wearing. The Public Religion Research Institute and Interfaith Youth Core conducted a survey about vaccine and mask attitudes this summer. It showed about 65% of LDS church members were vaccine acceptors. Those people said they’ve already gotten at least one dose or plan to soon. Another 15% of respondents identified as hesitant. About one-fifth said they would not get the vaccine. Church leadership urged its members to get vaccinated and mask up earlier in August. — Associated Press


Access To Hunting And Fishing Expanded On More Than 2 Million Acres

The U.S. Interior Department is expanding access to hunting and fishing on about 2.1 million acres of Fish and Wildlife Service land. That’s nearly the size of Yellowstone National Park. While hunters and anglers applaud the efforts, other conservation groups have argued that refuges shouldn’t host hunting or angling at all. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau 

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