Marc Weaver, KSL TV

Chemicals spontaneously combust in 'freak occurence,' causing southern Utah wildfire

By Jacob Klopfenstein, KSL.com | Posted - Aug 21st, 2019 @ 5:12pm


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LA VERKIN, Washington County — Some chemicals spontaneously combusted in the blistering southern Utah heat Tuesday after someone threw them out, leading to a small wildfire in a “freak occurrence,” officials say.

The fire started about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday near the La Verkin Creek bridge on state Route 17 on the north side of La Verkin, according to Utah fire officials.

The fire had burned about 19 acres and was 80% contained as of Wednesday morning, according to Mike Melton, fire management officer for the Southwest Utah Area of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

A man was cleaning out a shed in the area and had discarded some chemicals in a trash pile, which he intended to eventually haul off, Melton said. The chemicals mixed together and the triple-digit temperatures helped start a chemical reaction that ignited some brush nearby, according to Melton.

“It is quite an unusual cause,” he said.

The fire was initially near some homes, but responding fire crews were able to steer it away from the homes and toward an area of brush instead, Hurricane Valley Fire District Chief Tom Kuhlmann said Tuesday.

No one was injured, Kuhlmann added.

It’s not likely the man who was throwing the chemicals out will be cited or charged with any criminal wrongdoing, Melton said. It was a complete accident, he said, and he called it a “freak occurrence.”

Melton was not sure what types of chemicals were involved in the fire.

Fire crews from Hildale and Washington City responded to the blaze, as well as firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, Kuhlmann said.

Some older cars were damaged in the fire, according to Kuhlmann. He estimated the damage cost at least $40,000.

An outbuilding also was destroyed in the fire, but it was not the same shed that the man was cleaning, Melton said.

Contributing: Marc Weaver, KSL TV

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Jacob Klopfenstein

KSL Weather Forecast