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Firefighter injured while battling Utah wildfire threatening homes

FILE: A firefighter was injured Thursday while responding to an ongoing wildfire in southern Utah, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
FILE: A firefighter was injured Thursday while responding to an ongoing wildfire in southern Utah, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Utah Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands

CEDAR CITY — A firefighter was injured Thursday while responding to a wildfire in southern Utah, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The firefighter suffered a head injury in a fall and was evacuated from the area of the Aspen Fire about 13 miles southwest of Cedar City. The victim was taken to a hospital in "stable and good condition," representatives of the Dixie National Forest said in a statement.

About 20 structures, including some homes, remained threatened by the lightning-caused fire Thursday evening, forest service officials announced. Ground crews were busy clearing away vegetation from the threatened structures while about 10 aircraft battled the fire from above.

The fire was estimated at about 355 acres in size Thursday, the Forest Service said. It was about 5 percent contained by 6:30 p.m.

No evacuation orders were issued as of Thursday. The Forest Service has asked residents in the area to sign up for notifications of reverse-911 emergency orders at www.IronCounty.net.

Flight restrictions were in place within 7 miles of the wildfire. Bumblebee Ridge Road is also temporarily closed.

It's possible the Aspen Fire was ignited by a lightning strike as early as Saturday, said Joe Rechsteiner, a ranger for the Dixie National Forest's Pine Valley Ranger District.

“It is common for lightning-caused fires to show up days later, these are called holdover lightning fires," Rechsteiner said. "The higher relative humidity and moisture often associated with thunderstorms can cause fire behavior to be so minimal that smoke is not visible above tree tops until fire behavior picks up with wind, higher temperatures and dry weather patterns.”

Meanwhile, firefighters were battling two other wildfires believed to be caused by lightning.

• The Pine Canyon Fire, about 2 miles south of the Aspen Fire, grew to 105 acres Thursday. It was five percent contained by mid-evening.

• The Saddle Fire, about 2.5 miles southwest of the small town of Pine Valley in Washington County, had burned approximately 103 acres as of Thursday, the Forest Service reported. The fire was burning in steep and inaccessible terrain and was being combatted exclusively through the air, the agency said. None of the fire was contained as of Thursday evening.

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