UPDATED: Officials say truck electrical short caused fire at Zion National Park emergency operations center

ST. GEORGE — The Emergency Operations Center in Zion National Park faced a fire inside its own building Wednesday night after a fire vehicle was ignited inside its own bay.

A Zion Park Fire Department engine at the Zion National Park Emergency Operations Center under the shadow of the Altar of Sacrifice in Zion National Park, Utah, on July 8, 2020. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

An electrical short in a wildlands fire vehicle parked in its bay likely started the fire, Zion National Park Superintendant Jeff Bradybaugh told St. George News.

“It’s very rare to have a fire in the firehouse,” Bradybaugh said.

He added that fighting the fire was not as simple as running downstairs and trying to put out the fire. Even for firefighters in their own workplace, the first step is to get out.

“The first step is to still evacuate. It’s about safety. You evacuate first and evaluate the situation,” said Bradybaugh, who added civilians dealing with fires in their own home can learn from this example. “After everyone was out, we were able to take specific precautions and put on breathing devices. Our training paid off.”

Jeff Axel, acting chief of interpretation and public affairs for Zion National Park, told St. George News that just before6 p.m. Wednesday, staff in the center smelled smoke. A park ranger then saw flames through a window in the bay door.

Interior of the fire vehicle that was the source of a fire on July 7, 2020 in the Emergency Operations Center of Zion National Park, Utah. | Photo courtesy National Park Service, St. George News

Park firefighters were joined by colleagues from the Hurricane Valley Fire Department’s Springdale station who rushed to aid the scene – some coming after a few crews were diverted off another ongoing fire involving a fuel truck in Hurricane.

“This is a great example of the cooperation between federal, state and local fire departments and law enforcement,” Axel said. “We are very fortunate to have this collaboration to mutually respond to emergencies in Southwest Utah.”

The work of the firefighters, along with a robust fire suppression system in the building, helped to limit the fire and most damage to the bay. Damage was mostly limited to the vehicle, with the truck’s interior looking like a melted mass. The vehicle itself was just a year old, valued around $130,000, Axel said.

While the fire was taking place, 911 calls that usually went to the center were being diverted to St. George.

Axel said the loss of the vehicle will not interfere with the rangers’ ongoing firefighting efforts in the park and beyond.

“The destruction of this engine is a loss to our wildland fire program but we have a primary engine we typically use,” Axel said. “We also have an engine and crew from Crater Lake National Park here right now.”

As firefighters were rolling their hoses up after completing their battle against the flames Wednesday night, other firefighters could already be seen in an adjoining bay testing dispatch alarms and continuing their work to be on alert to render aid to those who still might need their help regardless of what was happening in their own building.

Updated July 9, 10 a.m. Suspected cause of fire and additional details added.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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