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Wildfires cause new closures despite rains

A planned fire has moved outside of its perimeter, leading to multiple road and trail closures in two national forests.

The Steep Creek fire began as a prescribed fire, which is started to prevent future fires and rejuvenate the ecosystem, but it spread into Dixie National Forest and Fishlake National Forest, said John Zapell of the Fishlake National Forest.

The fire is currently burning around 300 acres and was about 20 percent contained as of Thursday. Despite its relatively small size, the fire has led to a number of closures including portions of the Great Western Trail. A portion of the trail between Chriss Lake junction and the Great Western Trail on the west as well as the Sunflower access point on the east are all closed. The Deer Creek Lake Trail access to the Great Western Trail is also closed.

Zapell said the fire poses no real threat to people or structures at this time and that the recent closures are more of a preventive measure considering the fire's location.

"It was just for public safety reasons," he said. "There's no threat to structures, it was just for the safety of folks so, if they're driving around, they won't go into the fire area."

Rain and higher humidity levels led to the full containment of the Horse Valley fire. Officials said the fire, which was burning at 2,900 acres at one point, was declared fully contained last week.

The Horse fire in Zion National Park grew 200 acres to 1,200 acres and is still 25 percent contained. The National Park's Service David Eaker said that of those 1,200 acres, the "vast majority" is not actively burning. Only 100 acres are believed to be active.

Eaker said firefighters also conducted a burnout, which they called a success on the fire. He said this process is a way of "fighting fire with fire."

"Firefighters will set fires along the trail boundary and slowly let it burn into where the fire is, creating a buffer," he said. "If the fire picks up and runs toward the trail, it really reduces the fuel and keeps it at that line."

The Bridge fire, burning near Bryce Canyon National Park, continues to burn at 3,600 acres and is 75 percent contained, Dan Ng, chief of interpretation at Bryce Canyon National Park, said.

He said that the blaze will "never be entirely contained because it is being burned for resource benefit." The number of those fighting the fire has been gradually reduced from 300 to 65.

This weekend, weather forecasters are predicting storms, which officials say can be a double-edged sword.

"These storms bring rain, but also thunderstorms," Eaker said.

e-mail: emorgan@desnews.com