Chris Holmes

News Correspondent - Southern Utah

Chris Holmes holds a Masters of Professional Communication degree 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 co-host of the daily public affairs program, Big Picture Morning Show on radio station KSUB (Cedar City, Utah). He also is a sports and news contributor at Cherry Creek Media.  He lives in Cedar City, with wife, Marie and five children.

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."

The Quail Fire that burned over 1700 acres of Washington County near Leeds was fully contained Monday after burning throughout the weekend. The fire was human caused and started on Saturday afternoon.

Residents of the 60 homes evacuated have been allowed to return, I-15 flows uninterrupted again in both directions, and power has been reestablished to the 600 homes affected at the height of the crisis over the weekend.

KJ Harrison attended Snow Canyon High School in St. George and was on a trip with other area scouts to Mooney Falls in the Havasupai Indian Reservation inside the Grand Canyon.

According to a press release by the Coconino County Sheriffs' Office, the boy was swimming in an area under the falls when he was pulled beneath the surface by an undercurrent.

It took some time for fellow swimmers to bring him to the surface. CPR was administered for an extended period of time, but proved unsuccessful in resuscitating the boy.

A Mesquite police officer conducting a routine traffic stop observed suspicious behavior and indications of criminal activity in 2 southern Utah men during a routine traffic stop. The officer deployed the newest member of the Mesquite Police Department, Noro the K-9.

Noro immediately alerted the officer to the presence of drug odor, confirming the officer's suspicions. Upon a search of the vehicle, police located just over 8 grams of methamphetamine. The 2 men, both of La Verkin, Utah, were arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine and felony drug trafficking.

The bust came before Noro was even formally introduced to the Force.

Ken Lund / Creative Commons

A complaint from a European tourist visiting Zion National Park prompted a state audit of the Springdale Police Department. The tourist claimed that after receiving a citation, she was told she needed to pay the fine immediately, and in cash.

That practice violates state law. The concern is that officers could conceivably write citations, collect cash, destroy the documents, and keep the cash. Of the 423 citations issued from January 2011 to January 2012, the audit found that 1/3 were missing from the town's records.

In all, the White Rock Wildfire charred over 6,200 acres of both public and private land in steep rugged terrain along the Utah-Nevada Border and claimed the lives of two heavy air tanker pilots.

Incident commander John Kidd reported over the weekend that the fire had been 100% contained but clean up continues and the flight data recorder from the tanker that went down a week ago Sunday, killing both crew members, has been recovered.

A single-engine plane crash over the Memorial Day weekend claimed the live of 4 young men in their 20s. There were no eyewitnesses to the crash, nor were there any airport personnel on duty.

The crash occurred around 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning, but was not discovered until St. George Municipal Airport workers arrived at 6:00 a.m. The Cessna 172 went down 300 feet south of the airport runway. It is not known whether the plan crashed upon take-off or landing.