Oak Grove Fire continues to grow as crews work to establish containment

Oak Grove Fire as seen from St. George, Utah, Aug. 29, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Gerard Dauphinais, St. George News

ST. GEORGEAbout 30 hours after the Oak Grove Fire was first reported, the latest estimate from the U.S. Forest Service places the fire’s current size at around 400 acres.

A graphic showing the size and location of Oak Grove Fire as of Monday afternoon. At the time, it was Utah’s second largest active fire, Aug. 30, 2021 | Image courtesy of Utah Fire Info, St. George News

Kevin Abel, public information officer for the fire, said hand crews working on the fire were still trying to establish containment lines on the east and west sides of the fire perimeter in order to get the active blaze under control.

Abel said the steep, rocky terrain and thick vegetation were complicating factors for the fire response. Fire crews working to combat the blaze have to make their way through head-high vegetation, including the mahogany, chaparral and oak brush that are the fire’s primary fuel.

With rain expected throughout Southern Utah beginning Tuesday afternoon, there is a chance that stormy conditions will affect the fire response.

“It’s a two-sided thing,” Abel said. “Anytime we get rain on a fire, it can absolutely help dampen the fire just as aviation assets put water on a hot spot. It can also affect safety factors. Does it come with lightning? Is it a flash flood? So it can help and it can hinder what firefighters are doing on the line.”

Wildland fire trucks respond to the Oak Grove fire in its early hours, Pine Valley, Utah, Aug. 29, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, St. George News

The fire’s cause was identified as an unattended campfire on the outer edge of the Oak Grove Campground. A camper using dispersed camping space had left a campfire burning when they left, Abel said.

Firefighters’ early response was devoted to protecting the campground, including two older structures indicated as camping facilities.

Abel said there will be engines and firefighters monitoring the fire overnight, but aircraft will be grounded and active firefighting efforts will be postponed until the morning.

“Fires typically lay down in the evenings because relative humidity comes up,” Abel said. “It will continue to burn, but it typically will not run at night. We just won’t put firefighters on the line at night because of the safety factors.”

Smoke from the Oak Grove Fire as seen from the east, Pine Valley, Utah, Aug. 29, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, St. George News

The forest service road accessing the Oak Grove campground has been closed off where it meets the Forest Service 031 road, about 6 miles down the road from the campground. Abel said he expects there to be official signage and closure beginning Tuesday morning.

Fire managers are asking for the public’s assistance to avoid driving on the Forest Service 032 road to allow fire engines and resources access to manage the fire.

The airspace over and around the fire is under temporary flight restrictions and has been designated a “no drone zone” due to the dangers unauthorized drones pose to firefighting aircraft.

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

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