ST. GEORGE, Utah -- Firefighters battled in hot, dry, and windy weather yesterday to contain a nearly 60,000-acre wildfire that prompted evacuations, closed a major highway for hours, and covered much of southwest Utah with a dark, smoky haze.
Residents of Gunlock, about 260 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, were told to leave Saturday after the fire edged to within 4 miles of town. Officials expected to allow them to return home last night with the understanding that if the fire shifted, they would get a one-hour notice to leave again. The tiny reservation community of Shivwits also was warned of possible evacuations.
Temperatures in the 90s and high wind pushed the fire through grass and brush made thick by winter rainfall.
On Saturday, flames up to 10 feet high were visible from Interstate 15 just north of St. George before a fire caused by lightning jumped the highway and closed it for about seven hours during the night.
Crews were able to contain about 15 percent of the wildfire Saturday, and fire management officials predicted full containment by late Thursday.
Elsewhere, firefighters confronted blazes in California, Arizona, and Nevada that had consumed more than 200,000 acres.
In southeastern California, firefighters near Kelso made progress against a wildfire that had charred 67,000 acres in the Mojave National Preserve. The blaze had destroyed five homes and two cabins built in the late 1800s, and it threatened several dozen other homes. Firefighters had the blaze 65 percent contained yesterday with the help of lighter wind than expected.
A brush and grass fire that had charred 79,000 acres in Arizona remained about 20 percent contained yesterday but was expected to grow.
In Nevada, a wildfire southwest of the Las Vegas Strip grew to more than 24,000 acres Saturday, closing a state highway that leads to Death Valley National Park.