White Rock Fire 20 percent contained, sympathies expressed for fallen pilots

Two lightning-caused wildfires are being allowed to burn in the Tusayan Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest, Arizona, July 5, 2016 | Stock photo, St. George News

UPDATE 8 p.m. The fire is reported as 40 percent contained. Growth potential is moderate. According to Hanefeld’s evening report, “Firefighters today continued to make significant progress on the northeast section of the fire.”

IRON COUNTY – The White Rock Fire now covers 5,863 acres and is 20 percent contained as of Tuesday.

Chris Hanefeld, a fire information officer with the Bureau of Land Management’s Ely District Office, said a Great Basin Incident Management Team, led by Incident Commander John Kidd, and assumed management of the White Rock Fire on Tuesday.

The fire straddles the Nevada-Utah border and is expected to be 100 percent contained by Sunday, June 10.

Earlier in the week, a Lockheed PV2 heavy air tanker crashed in the Hamblin Valley Area of the fire.  The National Transportation Safety Board is on scene and conducting an investigation.

“Our thoughts are with the families of the fallen firefighters,” Kidd said.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar also issued a statement concerning the loss of the pilots:

“On behalf of the entire Interior family, I extend my deepest condolences to the families, friends and co-workers of the two courageous men who gave their lives on Sunday. Their loss is a stark reminder of the risks endured by the men and women who fight the wild fires that threaten lives and property across the West, and especially by those who take up that challenge from the air.”

According to the United States Forest Service, firefighters on the front lines will pause Tuesday evening to honor Capt. Todd Neal Tompkins and First Officer Ronnie Edwin Chambless, both of Boise, Idaho, who died in the plane crash.

The White Rock Fire originated in Lincoln County, Nev., Friday night, and crossed into Iron County, Utah Saturday.

Current suppression resources include 325 personnel, 13 crews, four helicopters, six engines, four dozers and three water tenders.

Red flag warnings are in effect for high winds – reported at between 20 to 35 mph – and low humidity in the fire area.

The fire is burning in steep, rugged terrain dominated by pinion-pine and juniper trees, sagebrush and grasses.

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Copyright 2012 St. George News.

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