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Fire near Brian Head doubles again; forces new evacuations

BRIAN HEAD, Iron County — A wildfire near a small resort town multiplied again Wednesday, overtaking 7.8 square miles and forcing evacuations of new homes believed to be in its path.

Dead trees previously killed by bugs fed the flames that spanned 5,000 acres late Wednesday, up from 2,700 in the morning. Morning winds were expected to carry the blaze further north on Thursday as 500 firefighters struggled to contain it.

"It's hard to combat," said Jesse Bender, spokeswoman for the Great Basin Incident Management Team.

The initial sparks were set off Saturday by a torch used to kill weeds, authorities said, and the fire is now spreading toward Garfield County, where crews were evacuating unincorporated areas known as Clear Creek, Beaver Dam and Horse Valley. The fire was 15 percent contained, and the Red Cross was providing shelter to people sent away from their homes.

The wildfire burned around the Thunder Ridge Boy Scout Camp, but the area suffered only "minimal damage" thanks to the work of fire crews throughout the night, the incident management team reported.

John Gailey, the director of support services for the Boy Scouts of America, praised the work of firefighters Wednesday. The camp is working to relocate or reschedule groups who were set to come to the camp in the next few weeks, he said.

"We regret the impact the wildfire could have on one (of) our most beautiful camping properties, and recognize the tremendous work fire crews and authorities have given to make camp operations possible in the future," Gailey said.

Firefighters also were working to control "spot fires" on the west side of state Route 143,

The town of Brian Head remains evacuated until crews determine it is safe for residents to return, and Gailey said the organization is working on relocating units signed up to attend Thunder Ridge.

S.R.143 is closed from Parowan to the junction of S.R. 148 near Cedar Breaks National Monument as crews battle the fire.

Contributing: Alex Cabrero, Annie Knox