This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
At 70,589 acres and 75 percent containment as of Friday, southern Utah's Brian Head Fire faced perhaps one more big challenge from Mother Nature this weekend: another surge of gusty winds, continued tinder-dry conditions and lightning.
The National Weather Service's "Red Flag" warning issued Friday covered the western three-quarter of the state, including the Dixie National Forest and the parched stands of beetle-killed timber, old growth mix-conifer and brushy mountains surrounding the Brian Head resort area.
Along the fire lines Friday, temperatures in the 80s and 90s combined with sub-10 percent relative humidity to keep nearly 1,100 firefighters on high alert. Thunderstorms, with little rain but lots of lightning strikes, were expected to continue Saturday.
"The concern for us is from the outflow winds expected from those dry thunderstorms, both within and around the fire," said Fire Information Officer David Eaker.
Still, crews relying on water-bearing helicopters and fire retardant-laden air tankers to help keep flareups in hand expected to have the blaze hemmed in by July 15.
The fire, sparked June 17 by a weed-burning project on private land, has not claimed any additional structures since it initially destroyed 13 homes. The 1,500 residents initially evacuated with the exception of those living in a few isolated cabins and ranches have since returned to their homes.
The bulk of firefighting activity remained on the blaze's north and northeastern flanks, particularly in the areas north of Little Creek Peak and along the Bear Valley. There, steep, rugged terrain was making the going tough for hand crews.