ST. GEORGE — Wednesday’s deluge brought much needed rain to the Arizona/Utah border, including the stretch of Interstate 15 and surrounding hills where the Lime Fire has been wreaking havoc.
The fire’s spread has all but stopped, with a burn scar covering just over 2,000 acres. According to the Arizona Strip District of the Bureau of Land Management, the fire is now 80% contained.
“It (the rain) helped immensely,” Ty Mizer, fire management officer for BLM, said Thursday. “We expect full containment sooner than we initially thought without the rain – as early as tomorrow, but I don’t see it going too much longer than Saturday at this point.”
With advance warning from the National Weather Service, incident commanders are able to ensure that all firefighters are safely withdrawn during severe storms. In the case of the Lime Fire, Mizer said the crews were already pulling out for the evening when the rain started falling.
“A nearby weather station recorded nearly an inch of rain, so it was a lot,” Mizer said. “We didn’t see a lot of debris flow, and we didn’t have any access problems today.”
Additionally, the fire’s cause has been officially attributed to human activity. The Arizona Strip District of the BLM announced Wednesday that the fire’s start was vehicle related, most likely due to poor maintenance.
“It was attributed to a maintenance failure – either a blown tire or faulty brakes would be the cause,” Mizer said. “In the case of a blown tire, the rim would make contact with the pavement on the highway, and you get a lot of sparks out of that.”
Sgt. Preston Price with the Arizona Highway Patrol said he had received reports of a commercial truck with sparking or potentially burning tires going through the gorge. Despite searching along I-15 for hours, the reported truck was never found, Price said.
The work that remains for firefighters is off the highway, in the extreme south of the fire’s footprint. Mizer said it’s burned up onto a plateau and is well away from the roadside. Two Type 6 engines and their crews remain on the fire and are working to secure containment lines.
Rachael Carnahan, public affairs officer for BLM-Arizona Strip District, previously told St. George News that awareness of fire prevention behavior can prevent future wildfires, which is especially critical this year.
“We are limited in resources this time of year because we’re drawing from a national pool of resources,” Carnahan said. “We do ask the public to be mindful. We have had two other fires in the gorge, and we know that the last one (previous to the Lime Fire) was human caused due to lack of vehicle maintenance.”
Drivers towing trailers should always check their chains and ensure that dragging chains don’t start brush fires along the roadway. Be aware of the areas where you park your vehicle, as the heat from the underside of a vehicle can spark dry grass or other brush below.
She said that any steps the public could take to prevent human-caused fires will help fire agencies best use their limited resources.
This report is based on statements from police, emergency personnel or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.
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