A four-alarm fire that torched a Parowan lumberyard is still burning today, and firefighters said they expect it will smolder for a couple more days.

"It's ugly," Parowan Fire Chief Albert Orton said Monday. The fire caused more than $2 million in damage to Mountain Valley Timber, located off I-15 near exit 75 in Parowan.

A fire official said embers from a debris burn on Friday were stoked by weekend winds, which ignited the blaze early Monday morning.

"The owner of the logging operation dug a pit and put some construction debris in it," said deputy state fire marshal Todd Hohbein. "The fire got large on Friday, and police and firefighters were called out. The owner put dirt on the fire, but it's kind of like a campfire."

Hohbein said embers floated from the fire pit and embedded themselves into large piles of logs scattered all over the lumberyard.

"The high winds stoked it and smoldered it for a couple of days," he said. At about 4:45 a.m. Monday, a firefighter on his way to work in Parowan spotted the blaze.

"We had firemen on the scene in 10 minutes," Parowan Mayor Jim Robinson said. "It was big time on fire by then."

Firefighters from nearby Brian Head, Paragonah, Cedar City and even Utah State Forestry crews responded to help combat the blaze, but strong winds whipped flames high into the skies.

Cedar City Battalion Chief Mike Phillips said winds blew hot embers and ashes 150 yards across a road, igniting a small brush fire. Crews tried to corral nearby horses frightened by the flames.

"We had gusts up to 35 miles per hour," he said. "There were a few that about knocked people over."

In the middle of the wild storm, it began hailing.

"It hailed like crazy," said Hohbein. "The wind still blew; there was heavy rain that suddenly turned to hail. It was just miserable."

By Monday afternoon, the winds had shifted again and firefighters were watching the lumberyard to see if any other piles of logs would ignite.

"We've been just watching it burn and checking the perimeter," said Orton. "That was one of the defeating factors on the fire is the wind."

The fire torched about six tiers of logs, about 12-15 feet high, 200 to 300 yards long.

"They're all logs that the bark beetle had killed, and there's still a lot more out there," Robinson said, referring to a beetle infestation on Cedar Mountain that has wiped out scores of trees, leaving dead, dry timber in its wake. The lumberyard owner had been in the process of harvesting the trees to build cabins, Robinson said.

About a half-dozen trucks and construction vehicles were either burned or destroyed in the fire, Hohbein said.

"It's the largest fire we've had in a long time," he said.


E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com