Traffic was shut down on I-15 Monday night as crews from multiple agencies worked to gain control over an unpermitted burn by the Virgin River in Arizona near mile marker 8.
Initial reports to dispatch were that the fire was a controlled burn by a property owner. Winds picked up burning embers, however, and the fire quickly spread out of control moving north along the river.
According to Arizona Highway Patrol Sergeant John Bottoms, crews from AHP, Beaver Dam Fire Department and Arizona Department of Transportation worked to get control over the fire before it reached the interstate, but were unsuccessful. Mesquite Fire and Rescue also sent one engine and one ambulance to assist.
Just a few moments after he sent his initial notice to the MLN, Bottoms announced that all lanes were closed indefinitely due to visibility issues and the fire jumping the freeway. As the fire spread, it proceeded towards Beaver Dam, causing a voluntary evacuation of six homes, although there were as many as 20 that could have been effected if the fire progressed.
During the evacuation notice, one Mohave County Sheriff Deputy, Christofer Young, was injured while trying to assist a resident off of their roof. Young lost his footing on a ladder and fell, breaking his leg. He was later transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center and underwent surgery to correct the fracture.
Monday night’s reports initially projected that the interstate would be closed until as late as Tuesday morning sometime, but with luck on their side, crews and AHP were able to open all northbound lanes and one southbound lane by 10 p.m.
As of Tuesday morning, it was estimated by Beaver Dam Fire Station’s Battalion Chief Andre Ojeda that the fire charred anywhere from 30 to 50 acres overnight. Authorities with the Bureau of Land Management from Utah and Las Vegas were both on scene Tuesday determining how much damage had been done as well as assisting local crews with fire containment. Ojeda said that there were three fire engines from the Utah BLM offices, four from Las Vegas BLM and one from the US Forest Service Utah station all mopping up and containing the fire, which continues to burn. It is anticipated that all lanes on I-15 will be fully open by the end of Tuesday.
During the MCSO’s investigation Monday night, a person was identified as starting the fire, “burning weeds on his property without a permit,” and may be facing criminal charges.