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Firefighters make progress on Brian Head fire; lake reopens

BRIAN HEAD, Utah — A southern Utah fishing lake is reopening as firefighters gain more of a handle on a two-week old wildfire that has forced out 1,500 people from the area.

The U.S. Forest Service said Sunday that firefighters have made good progress on the blaze that’s burned 93 square miles of land.

It’s 65 percent contained, with full containment of the western portion expected by the time one of two crews of firefighters from Nevada, Idaho and Utah are relieved of duty Sunday.

Campers, fishers and swimmers can now visit Panguitch Lake.

Authorities are reopening roads but warned drivers to be alert for possible falling rocks and debris.

Multiple communities remain under evacuation orders.

The fire has burned 13 residences and prompted evacuation orders at Brian Head and the Dry Lake area. The orders for those areas have since been lifted, but more than 1,800 firefighters are continuing to battle the blaze.

Because of the fire, Brian Head’s July Fourth celebration will be more subdued than in past years. The usual fireworks display is also off the schedule this year and Brian Head Resort spokesman Mark Wilder expects a smaller crowd than the 15,000 or so people who usually attend.

Brian Head town manager Bret Howser said people have been trickling back into town and “good vibes” are in the air.

Wilder said Friday that the resort area’s residents are grateful to firefighters who kept the ski area largely untouched by the flames from the wildfire, which officials say was started June 17 by a man burning a pile of weeds.

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