Smoke drifting from Western fires clouds Southern Utah sky; Flames flare up in Dammeron Valley

File photo of a Hurricane Valley Fire District fire engine responding to a fire in Southern Utah, location and date unspecified | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A smoky sky produced mostly from a massive wildfire in Phoenix as well as brush blazes west of Las Vegas and the last of the Mammoth Fire up north has put a gray pall upon Southern Utah – driving down temperatures.

Map showing the site of the Red Mountain Fire along state Route 18 near Dammeron Valley. | Photo courtesy of Google Maps, logo by iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News | Click to enlarge

And that was before another wildfire flared up closer to home this afternoon in Dammeron Valley near the parking area for the Red Mountain Trail that reached state Route 18, shutting it down.

The fire, now known as the Red Mountain Fire, was first reported at 12:41 p.m. according to the Color Country Interagency Fire Center and has caused the closure of both sides of SR-18 at mile marker 15 for a time. 

The fire has been deemed “human-caused,” and no injuries are reported. 

Washington County Fire Warden Adam Heyder told St. George News as of 5:20 p.m., the fire was knocked down and firefighters were working on containment. He added that at one point, power lines were threatened.

Both sides of SR-18 have been reopened.

The Red Mountain Fire is only going to add to the smoky haze enveloping the area.

The main source of the smoke in the upper atmosphere is the Telegraph Fire more than six hours away, east of the Phoenix area. Fire officials there say the fire, which started on June 4 near Superior, Arizona, has now consumed 123,078 acres and is 68% contained. 

The National Weather Service’s Salt Lake City office said that and a few other fires in the west are the reason for the smoky haze above St. George and the rest of Southern Utah.

A map showing from blue to purple the concentrations of smoke emanating from western wildfires into St. George as of June 15, 2021. | Photo courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, St. George News | Click to enlarge

And that also means that with the smoke actually keeping out the hotter rays of the sun, it is the rare occasion in the summer when St. George is cooler than Salt Lake City – at least temporarily.

“With the thicker smoke aloft across portions of southwestern Utah, temperatures are warming up slower than expected,” the NWS said in a statement posted on Twitter.

This is despite an excessive heat warning in effect for the area through Friday night.

By noon, it warmed up to the 80s in the St. George area, according to the weather service. Meanwhile, Salt Lake City has set a record high and is having its hottest day of the year at 104 degrees.

Smoke detection from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites show the movement of smoke northwest from the Telegraph Fire. 

Also contributing to the smoke is the Cottonwood Valley and Sandy Valley fires, each to the west of the Las Vegas area near Pahrump, Nevada. The smoke from the two fires that are near each other and a combined 1,780 acres is also adding to the atmospheric smoky ceiling.

On top of that, the Mammoth Fire, which started on June 5 near Mammoth Creek Village about 40 miles east of Cedar City, continues to burn. At 709 acres, it is 72% contained according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Updated 5:30 p.m., June 15, 2021: Red Mountain Fire knocked down, SR-18 reopened.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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