Crews continue to battle 12,000-acre Turkey Farm Road Fire; Veyo Fire 0% contained

ST. GEORGE — After a single-day growth of more than 10,000 acres, the Turkey Farm Road Fire is now at nearly 12,000 acres, while the Veyo West Fire is still holding at under 3,000 acres as crews battle both blazes that are still 0% contained.

Air tankers drop water and fire retardant on the Turkey Farm Road Fire, which spread toward homes off of Green Springs Drive, Washington City, Utah, July 14, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Kristen Hodge, St. George News

As of Wednesday, the Turkey Farm Road Fire has spread to nearly 12,000 acres and is 0% contained, authorities posted in an update on Twitter just before noon. 

Tuesday’s efforts were focused on aggressive suppression actions, which protected communities, primarily the hundreds of homes off of Green Springs Drive. Their attack on the blaze involved multiple aircraft, including large air tankers that were brought in to drop retardant and water to create a fire line to prevent the blaze from spreading east, a blitz that continued for hours as aircraft made drops, one right after the other in quick succession.

Command of the blaze, which had grown to 11,900 acres by Tuesday night, was transitioned to Mike Melton, fire management officer for Utah’s Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands in Southern Utah, after a single-day growth of more than 10,000 acres — driven by strong winds and terrain.

With the fire line in place, fire managers are focused on “holding those established control lines and minimizing further growth” using air support that will drop water and retardant while crews continue a ground attack.

See video of a plane dropping retardant on the fire at the top of this report, courtesy of Justin Allred. 

Veyo West Fire 

As of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Veyo West Fire is estimated at 2,900 acres and is also 0% contained, which forced the evacuation of the west side of Veyo and has burned one primary structure and one outbuilding. Closures include secondary roads west of state Route 18 and north of Veyo. The fire is burning through dry brush and grass and structures are still threatened. 

Resources assigned to the fire include nine Type III fire engines, six Type VI Engines, three bulldozers, four water tenders and involves multiple local fire departments, as well as three type I crews, four initial attack crews, along with multiple air tankers and four helicopters.

 Drones and firefighting don’t mix

Infographic message “not worth the view” depicting that flying drones near wildfires in Utah is dangerous and illegal | Image courtesy of UtahFireInfo, St. George News

Air resources have played such an essential role in suppression efforts over the past couple of days, but those operations were shut down in Southern Utah by a drone intrusion reported recently, which placed the firefighters at risk. Additionally, flying drones where firefighting efforts are underway is illegal.

“Have their backs. Don’t make their job any more dangerous than it already is,” authorities posted on Twitter. 
Fire behavior triangle — weather, topography and fuels  

While a number of factors can influence the way a wildfire burns, how fast it moves and how difficult it is to control, the three primary components are weather, topography and fuels, according to Idaho Firewise.

Smoke billows from the Turkey Farm Road Fire that changes directions, heading toward hundreds of homes off of Green Springs Drive, Washington City, Utah, July 14, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Kristen Hodge, St. George News

Weather is the number one factor and includes wind, temperature, cloudiness, moisture and air pressure. High temperatures and low humidity cause vegetation to dry and wildfires to burn rapidly, while wind not only pushes the fire across landscapes but also provides a steady flow of oxygen that can cause the fire to grow rapidly.

Wind can also blow burning embers for miles, igniting new spot fires. On the opposite side of the spectrum, rain and high humidity can slow or extinguish a fire, while storms can cause fire activity to increase or become completely unpredictable.

The second component, topography, or the physical features of an area, can determine how fast a fire moves and how difficult it is to control. For example, wildfires burn more rapidly when moving up a slope by preheating the unburned fuels, which makes them more combustible.

Additionally, wind moves more rapidly up slopes, increasing the speed at which a fire can spread, using draws that act like chimneys to funnel the flames upward. Moreover, south and west-facing slopes have drier fuels than those found on north and east-facing slopes. 

The characteristics of fuels, the third factor, which includes vegetation and structures, also affect the way a wildfire behaves. Large, dense trees burn for hours and generate a lot of heat, while dried grasses, on the other hand, will result in a flashy fire that burns quickly and does not generate much heat. 

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

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