Chris Holmes

News Correspondent - Southern Utah

Chris Holmes will soon graduate with a Masters of Professional Communication from Southern Utah University. While at SUU his work received numerous awards including the 2009 King Foundation Best of Festival Award in the National Broadcast Education Association Festival of Media Arts. Chris is also the host of the daily public affairs program, Southern Utah Forum on radio station KSUB (Cedar City, Utah). He lives in Cedar City, with wife, Marie and five children.

Southern Utah residents woke to an odd sighting in the eastern sky, but the source was actually over New Mexico and was visible throughout the American southwest.

To many southern Utah residents the odd, meteor-like flash, which left a corkscrew-shaped contrail, appeared to have contacted the ground very nearby, but according to Army Public Affairs it was actually a Pac-3 missile test at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

There have been 14 such tests at the New Mexico site since the early 1990s.

The weather forecast in Southern Utah calls for clearing skies. That's good news for folks in a community west of St. George.

About 30 homes and over a dozen businesses are cleaning up water, mud, and debris after the breach of a dike for retention pond in Santa Clara on Tuesday.

The pond was already filled to its brim with recent rainfall, softening the earthen structure. On Tuesday another downpour proved too much for the dike, sending a wall of water down Canyon View Drive.

Cedar High School in Cedar City was on lock down for the better part of Wednesday after school officials found a suspicious item near the school’s entrance.

A sustained thunder storm on Friday dumped 2 inches of rain in about 20 minutes on central Iron County, overwhelming city streets and resulting in flooded basements in some 80 homes in the town of Enoch.

Arizona's Prop 204, "The Quality Education and Jobs" Initiative, calls for the renewal of a $0.01 sales tax set to expire in 2013. The tax would provide a dedicated permanent revenue stream for education that the legislature cannot cut.

The blaze known as the Reserve Fire burning on the Red Cliffs Wilderness Reserve north of St. George began on Monday and quickly grew to over 3,000 acres. That fire is now 50% contained.

Although there are no longer any structures threatened by the blaze, 2 popular hiking trails remain closed as interagency fire crews to battle both on the ground and from overhead.

The Little Pine fire burning near Enterprise has been fully contained after blackening over 2,000 acres and closing access to Enterprise Reservoir and its popular campgrounds.

The Utah rural summit concludes today in Cedar City. UPR's Chris Holmes was there from opening to close and reports on highlights from the summit.

The keynote speaker on Thursday was Jack Shultz, author of the book The Seven and a Half Keys to Big Success in Small Towns. Key #1 according to Schultz is to have a "can do" attitude. In welcoming summit attendees, Southern Utah University President Dr. Michael T. Benson offered a local example: The Utah Shakespeare Festival.

Today is the opening day of the 25th annual Utah Rural Summit, a 2-day seminar attended by leaders from Utah's non-Wasatch Front counties and cities. UPR's Chris Holmes sits down with Wes Curtis, Executive Director of Southern Utah University's Office of Regional Services, to talk about the summit his office is hosting and why Cedar City is a great place to hold this discussion.

Emery County, Utah

The Southwest Utah Public Health Department reports that mosquitoes taken in a random survey in Washington County have tested positive for West Nile Virus.

This is the first positive West Nile result in Utah this year. Southern Utah's last human case of West Nile Virus was in Kane County in 2010.

During the early hours Monday morning members of the Iron County Sheriff's Office along with the DEA, Forest Service, and the Iron/Garfield County Narcotics Task Force, located and removed a number of marijuana plants located in a garden near Pinto, Utah, about 30 miles west of Cedar City.

A $15,000 reward has been offered in a recent case of animal cruelty in the FLDS-dominated bordertown of Colorado City, Arizona.

The now infamous cat mutilation case actually took place on May 31, but only recently received local and national news attention when footage was posted on Youtube.

The FBI out of Denver confirms that Brian Joseph Heglin is a murder suspect out of Colorado Springs. Tuesday morning he was on the run and desperate. Around 3 a.m. the suspect jumped the fence at the St. George airport and attempted to commandeer an empty SkyWest airlines regional jet.

Brian Joseph Hedglin, 40,  was on the run and suspected in the murder of his former girlfriend. Hedglin was a pilot for SkyWest airlines, on administrative leave after his arrest last week for stalking and harassing 39-year-old Christina Cornejo.  Cornejo was found stabbed to death in her Colorado Springs apartment on Friday.

People nationwide are still reacting with amazement at the remarkable story of survival that broke in a remote area of Southern Utah late Friday afternoon.

28-year-old William LaFever, from Colorado springs, contacted his father for money on June 6th or 7th –calling from boulder, Utah.

John LaFever wired money for his son to the closest location, Page, Arizona.

The younger LaFever, who is autistic intended to follow the Escalante river to Lake Powell, then solicit a boat ride to page, with no apparent appreciation for the peril that such a trek posed.

Sunday, the national weather service issued a flash flood warning for areas of Washington county Utah, Lincoln county Nevada, and Mohave county Arizona. And as it turns out, they had it spot on. A flash flood warning means that flooding is imminent or occurring. Residents living along streams and creeks were asked to take immediate precautions to protect life and property.

Indeed, some St. George streets were soaked with as much as two feet of standing water after heavy rains fell for nearly an hour flooding homes and businesses. Damage assessments are still being made. 

Mesquite, Nev. police officers have arrested a local man after months of investigation, gathering evidence, and talking with victims and witnesses in a string of burglaries that were committed throughout the city since the beginning of the year.

Wesley McClain, 24, of Mesquite was arrested on 10 counts of burglary and four counts of attempted burglary after detectives obtained and executed search warrants for his residence and vehicle.

The lightning caused Baboon fire quickly more than doubled in size to over 17,000 acres, prompting the evacuation of personnel from a portion of Utah's largest livestock complex. 

Thunderstorms sparked the blaze around noon Thursday. Another squall in the afternoon aided firefighters with higher humidity and spotty showers, but not before authorities called for the human evacuation of a portion of the expansive Circle 4 Hog Farm south of Milford. 

Monsoonal flows helped firefighters in southern Utah gain the upper hand on wildfires last week, but the same summer weather phenomenon also brings lightning. It was only a matter of time before southern Utah felt the monsoon's double-edged sword.

There are a dozen or so small fires burning in the Arizona strip caused by lightning. the most threatening appears to be the Baboon Fire burning between Cedar City and Minersville.

The fire has burned 1,500 acres and is 0% contained.

The new expanded bans apply to areas in southern Utah and northwest Arizona. The new restrictions go into effect in Washington, Iron, Beaver, Kane, Garfield, Wayne, Piute, Sevier and Sanpete Counties, as well as BLM lands in Coconino and Mohave Counties in Arizona.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Spokesperson Denise Shultz said a New Mexico family was enjoying the scenery and looking at Peekaboo Arch on Friday, when 2 personal watercrafts collided, killing 2 riders. In addition, a juvenile female was taken to the hospital and later released.

On June 21 a man entered the Bloomington Branch of Wells Fargo Bank in St. George and demanded money. No weapons were displayed, nor was anyone inured, but the suspect did leave on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Wells Fargo and the Utah Bankers Association are offering up to $10,000 as a reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

After several days of multiplying acreage, the Shingle Fire in Kane County has remained an 8,200-acre blaze for 2 days. But generally cooler temperatures, higher relative humidity, and even some rain fall has helped the 350 or so firefighters stabilize fire lines.

Even though the fire hasn't gained new acreage for 2 days, it is still only 10% contained. The aggressive aerial bombardment of water and fire retardant also continues.

A town meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening in Duck Creek Village to inform residents on the present fire situation.

U.S. Forest Service

It now has a name. What locals were calling the Swains Creek Fire is now being called the Shingle Fire by Color Country Fire Management Authorities, after Shingle Mill Canyon where the human caused wildfire started on Sunday.

A wildfire near New Harmony, south of Cedar City, has destroyed 1 home so far and 7 other structures, forced the evacuation of about 40 homes, numerous farm animals, and led to the closure of I-15 between Cedar City and St. George.

One can scarcely venture outdoors from one end of the state to another without detecting the haze and scent of wildfires. The latest fire break out is near New Harmony, just south of Cedar City.

Nick Howell, from the Interagency Fire Center in Cedar City insists that the extraordinary conditions call for extraordinary precautions:

Better safe than sorry says the U.S. Forest Service. The agency has temporarily closed the popular Oak Grove Campground north of St. George in the Dixie National Forest because of extreme fire danger. A major factor in the move is accessibility. There is only one road in and out of the area and a wildfire could easily cut off campers from their only escape.

Despite a statewide red flag alert, the service also reports that firefighters have extinguished several abandoned campfires in the area near the campground in the past week.

The Forest Service calls the move a "proactive approach to safeguard the public during these extremely dry conditions."

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