ST. GEORGE — More than a hundred fires blazed through brush across Southern Utah and Mesquite, Nevada, Saturday night, threatening some structures and lighting up the Black Hill beneath Tech Ridge.
St. George City Fire Chief Robert Stoker told St. George News that from about 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday morning, they had 21 brush fire calls, three structure fire calls and one vehicle fire in the Little Valley area.
The three structure fire calls ended up being brush fires that were close to a structure.
“I don’t think we had any damage from those,” Stoker said.
The vehicle fire is believed to have been ignited by a firework being shot off and then landing in the vehicle, which was a minivan, he said.
“We didn’t confirm that, but that’s how we were told that it started,” Stoker said. He later added that the vehicle was totally engulfed in flames when crews arrived on scene.
This story features drone footage of the Black Hill fire below Tech Ridge in St. George, captured by Ty Empey.
St. George Fire also responded to four medical calls, one of which was a burn injury from fireworks, he said. While he wasn’t sure what part of the body was injured, he said that Gold Cross ended up canceling a request for assistance, which means that it wasn’t too serious.
The largest fire responded to was on Black Hill beneath Tech Ridge, where the city was setting off the fireworks.
“We had some fallout, which we kind of planned on with those fireworks being shot up there. What ended up happening was a pretty good breeze coming from the west to the east, so it pushed some of the firework fallout off the edge of the hill above Monster Storage and the 700 South area.”
He said some of this they were able to just let burn off without having to dispatch personnel. They did have some units on standby on Bluff Street and up on top of Black Hill near the old airport during the city’s firework show.
While it looked like a significant fire blazing on Black Hill, it ended up being much less severe than it appeared.
“There wasn’t any real damage,” he said. “It burned off quite a bit of the hill. There were some power lines to the north that we were mainly concerned about, but we were able to keep the fire from getting to those.”
Most all other calls were neighborhood-related fires from fireworks. Some of the reported fires were out by the time firefighters responded, in which homeowners or bystanders used garden hoses or buckets of water to drench the flames.
Stoker said they usually have some dumpster fires, but this year none were reported. The only damage from these fires was the vehicle fire and some landscaping of homeowners and businesses.
That said, Stoker said Saturday was a more active Fourth of July firefighting night compared to 2019.
“It was probably one of our more active years,” he said.
The main causes of the fires had to do with using illegal fireworks, setting them off in unrestricted areas or tipping them over and shooting sideways, which is why putting cinder blocks or bricks around them for stability is suggested.
Washington City Fire Capt. Julio Reyes told St. George News that they responded to approximately 15 fire calls Saturday evening, which were all believed to be caused by fireworks.
“About 10 of the incidents had been extinguished before our crews arrived on scene or we were unable to locate,” he said.
The fire at 400 S. Washington Fields Road required the most effort. It started on the hillside to the east and was headed up the hill toward homes on the cliffside of Sienna Drive.
“The first arriving crews were able to quickly knock down the fire on the top but the fire continued to work its way south toward Terrace Circle, where there were other homes being threatened,” he said.
Responders were able to stop the fire on the south side.
“The fire got within just a couple of feet of a large RV and approximately 20 feet from the home,” he said.
The fire burned approximately five acres.
The last fire, on 300 W. 200 South, ignited after midnight. It caused some minor damage to a large power pole and threatened a couple of trailers. Minor damage was confirmed but is expected to be repaired at a later date.
There was one incident reported that involved a firework-related injury after a firework discharged in close proximity to a man. The injury was minor.
“The patient chose not to be transported to the hospital by ambulance,” Reyes said.
Santa Clara/Ivins Fire Chief Randy Hancy told St. George News that they were somewhat lucky as they only saw a handful of fires between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m. Saturday night.
“We had a couple of small fires we were able to take care of rather quickly, mostly little spot fires,” he said.
Ivins/Santa Clara had three engines that were available. Two of those were out of patrol for the evening, and one was sent out to assist Washington City.
They had two dumpster fires from people putting their fireworks in the dumpster without them being properly extinguished. They also had numerous calls of fireworks in restricted areas.
“Other than that, we were pretty fortunate, we didn’t have anything magnificent like St. George and Washington had last night,” he said.
This year was the first year Hurricane held its city firework show at Sand Hollow State Park. The change in location has been in the works for a few years and was necessary in order to ensure a safe landing zone.
Hurricane City Fire Battalion Chief Kohl Furley told St. George News that from mid-day to around 1:20 a.m., they responded to 13 firework-related brush fires that were spread across the district, which covers approximately 650 square miles. None of these fires were related to the city firework show.
“This was all people setting off fireworks at their homes,” he said.
There were two calls where structures were threatened but no damage occurred, he said. Hurricane Fire was backed by Color Country Interagency Fire Management, and Furley said fires were managed quickly.
“We were able to put the fires out quickly and move onto the next one,” he said.
Approximately 34 fires reported in Cedar City between 9:45 p.m. and 2 a.m., Cedar City Fire Chief Mike Phillips told St. George News. One of the fires was caused from a blown tire on a semi, but the rest were firework-related, he said.
He said they had a handful of dumpsters on fire and several structures threatened in multiple brush fires.
The largest of these brush fires occurred on a hillside of pinyon-juniper behind Fairway Drive that firefighters were still working on Sunday morning.
The one on Fairway Drive burned up a hillside and came near the backside of houses, but only ended up burning a couple acres of sagebrush and pinyon-juniper, he said.
“We just went from one to the next one, and then we went back and checked on them,” he said. “We’re still out on the one behind Fairview Drive mopping up hotspots.”
While there were multiple structures threatened, no damage was reported.
“We had so many fires, we were just putting them out, leaving and going to the next one, not even completely extinguishing them. That’s how rapidly they were happening,” Phillips said. “This will break a record for the most fires in a 24-hour period for us.”
Phillips said irresponsible activity related to fireworks was the cause for the fires, such as not soaking fireworks in water before throwing them in a dumpster.
No evacuations or injuries were reported.
Mesquite Fire Department responded to seven fire-related incidents according to information released Sunday morning by Fire Capt. Spencer Lewis.
Since Friday morning, the fire department has responded to 31 calls for service.
The Eureka Casino put on a 14-minute firework display with no issues, and no significant loss of property occurred Saturday night. Crews responded to the Best Western Hotel for a storage shed on fire. Shortly after midnight, crews responded to Turtle Cove for a brush fire.
Fireworks were the cause of both fires according to witnesses at the scene.
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