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Season’s first wildfire burns near Escalante

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Southern Utah's first wildfire of the season torched about 2,250 acres near Escalante on Monday, and officials expected the blaze to continue growing into the night.

A car fire sparked the Corn Creek blaze in a drainage area about 11 miles west of Escalante on Sunday night, said Kenton Call, a spokesman for the Dixie National Forest.

Around 6 p.m. Monday, firefighters had contained about 20 percent of the fire, but officials expected the blaze to "continue to grow rapidly" in the short term, spreading on all sides.

At one point, flames threatened some cabins in the area and forced several road closures, Call said. The threat to the seasonal cabins in the canyon had been contained Monday evening, said Becki Bronson, of the Garfield County Sheriff's Office.

Forest Highway 17 remained closed between the North Creek Junction and the Escalante Summit. Forest Road 144 also was closed at the Allen's Canyon and Corn Creek junction.

Drought conditions, hot temperatures and high winds fanned the flames as they ripped through pinyons, junipers and ponderosa pines, Call said. On Monday evening, however, officials said cloud cover helped their cause, allowing firefighters to slow the fire's progress.

The Color Country Fire Management Area fire crews, as well as local fire departments, are on the scene to fight the blaze. They are managing the fire as a Type 3, but they will soon bring in a Type 2 incident-management team. "More resources are available as the fire intensifies," Call said.

Bronson said the Forest Service is using aircraft in addition to ground units to fight the blaze. And a five-man fire crew from Zion National Park also is helping fight the fire, park spokesman David Eaker said.

Smoke from the fire was causing some air-quality concerns Monday evening, Bronson said. "It's not terribly bad, but it's not pure."

Contributing: Aaron Falk

E-mail: lwilde@desnews.com