Wildfires Burn 387,000 Acres in Color Country Area This Year

Wildfires Burn 387,000 Acres in Color Country Area This Year

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ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) -- Wildfires have burned 387,000 acres in the Color Country region so far this year.

Only 67,787 acres burned last year in Color Country, which includes Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane and Washington counties in Utah and the Arizona Strip.

About one-eighth of the area burned this year was in Washington County, Allen Briggs, state fire warden for the county, told the County Commission Tuesday.

Briggs said the number of human-caused fires was down this year.

However, the wet winter and spring provided elevated growth of grass, which combined with hot weather and lightning this summer for perfect conditions for natural fires.

The fires affected 26 communities, from the St. George metro area to tiny Motoqua, which was almost completely surrounded by fires. New Harmony and Gunlock had evacuations because of fires.

'Some of these communities have just been to heck and back this year," Briggs said. "I can't say enough about the residents of New Harmony, Gunlock and Motoqua."

Structural losses included three outbuildings in Pintura, a historical cabin and two outbuildings at Smith's Mesa, a ranch house near Motoqua and one building at a turkey farm north of St. George.

Fire also burned over one-third of the desert tortoise habitat in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.

Briggs said the fire season is not over.

"I expect this to go until at least October," he said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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