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Crews continue fight against Mill Flat Fire


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NEW HARMONY -- Hundreds of firefighters from all over the Intermountain region battled the Mill Flat Fire Monday in southwestern Utah. Their work seems to have paid off, as the Great Basin Incident Management Team says the fire is now 5 percent contained.

Nearly 700 firefighters from all over the Intermountain region arrived Monday to help fight this fire, which has now burned close to 10,400 acres.

New Harmony residents react to destruction

The growth of this fire has taken a lot of people by surprise. It doubled in size in 24 hours. Jerry Hales was evacuated Saturday night.

"Well, we had got a warning earlier. My wife and grandson were here," Hales said. "They put important documents in the car and pictures and genealogy."

Hales returned to his home Monday to find it was still standing. Others who live in New Harmony weren't as lucky.

Quentin and DJ Morisette had been working on their million-dollar home since 2003. It sat on 20 acres of beautiful countryside; now it resembles something out of a horror movie--bent metal, charred trees, a home reduced to ash and debris.

"Twenty acres of heaven is now gone," Quentin said. "This was our dream. This was our home here in the valley. This is where we wanted to be."

So far, the fire has burned 11 structures in the Pine Valley Mountains between Cedar City and St. George. The flames came close to 20 structures in the subdivision of Harmony Heights Sunday night. Extra resources were assigned to that area and remained there Monday.

Fire crews fight flames from several angles

Most of the crews were on the ground, with increased efforts on protecting structures in New Harmony, Harmony Heights, Kolob Ranch and Bumblebee.

Four Hotshot crews were assigned to getting into the fire to attempt to knock it down, while seven Type II crews worked the outer areas. There were 30 engines total.

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Fire officials say they treat the fire as one big action, but at the same time separate it into four to five divisions of this mountain, attacking it from all sides.

Even though evacuations have been relaxed, fire officials still recommend staying out of town, because with these winds, the fire can turn quickly.

Residents in those areas are not under mandatory evacuation. However, they're still on a one-hour alert for emergency evacuations.

"There's a lot of fuel that has been burnt, but there's still a lot of fuel out there. And with the erratic winds--I mean you can feel the wind blowing right now--as this wind picks up and different terrain features, it'll change direction on us. So we'll see what the fire does," Mazzier said.

The Great Basin Incident Management Team says a lot of fuel in town has already been burnt, but there's still a lot of fuel out there. Plus, with the erratic winds and harsh terrain, the fire can quickly change direction.

To hinder those fast runs down slope, heavy air tankers and helicopters dropped water and retardant on the fire all day Monday.

The incident commander told the community Monday night that he expects the wind to die down significantly in the next two to three days, but he said it's still going to take time to put the fire out--probably another 10 to 12 days.

Forest Service officials say the Mill Flat Fire started on July 25 by a lightning strike and was burning safely under supervision until it got out of control on Saturday. Fire authorities think it could take another week to put out the fire.

E-mail: ngonzales@ksl.com


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Nicole Gonzales

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