Family’s home goes up in flames in wildfire near St. George

(Photo by Tolga Katas) Lavonna Barlow holds Cutie, one of the family's cats, while surveying the remains of the family's house in Veyo, in Washington County, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, the day after a wildfire destroyed the home. Cutie was singed; others in the cat's litter died in the fire.

Anthony Barlow had heard from neighbors that his family’s house in Veyo, a small community in Washington County, had burned down overnight.

On Tuesday, the Barlow family — who had been in St. George, about 20 miles south, when they learned about the fire, and spent the night in a motel — saw how little was left.

“You can’t let something like this go unless you see it, and realize that it’s actually gone,” Barlow said over the phone. “To see the devastation, you know it’s gone and you can move on.”

(Photo by Tolga Katas) The remains of the Barlow family house in Veyo, in Washington County, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, the day after a wildfire destroyed the home.

The Barlows’ rented house was the one primary structure destroyed by a wildfire that ignited near Veyo on Monday afternoon and sped through dry brush and grass, prompting overnight evacuations in both Veyo and nearby Brookside. By Tuesday, the fire had spread to 2,900 acres and also burned two outbuildings.

Firefighters worked Tuesday to establish fire lines to the north and west of the fire, said Kevin Abel, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service. Crews were racing against a “red flag” warning, scheduled to be in place through Tuesday evening, predicting high winds that were expected to whip up the flames, Abel said.

The cause of the Veyo fire was still under investigation Tuesday. Lightning has been ruled out as a cause.

Also in Washington County, another wildfire — dubbed the Turkey Farm Road Fire — had burned at least 2,000 acres by Tuesday, with zero containment. No evacuations were ordered, though people were asked to avoid several roads and trails in the area, 3 miles west of Washington City. That fire was sparked by illegal fireworks Monday night, according to Bureau of Land Management spokesman Christian Venhuizen. Authorities are searching for the suspects, three teenage boys seen driving a white sedan on Cottonwood Road around 9 p.m. Monday.

The Barlows spent Tuesday looking over the damage, and reuniting with their animals — a dog, Snowflake, two cats and several cows — who were rescued by a neighbor. One cat, Cutie, got singed; several cats in a litter, and a calf, were killed.

The family’s belongings — including Anthony Barlow’s tools for his work, retrofitting air conditioning — were destroyed.

(Photo by Tolga Katas) A charred bicycle sits amid the remains of the Barlow family house in Veyo, in Washington County, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, the day after a wildfire destroyed the home.

“They lost everything,” said Christine Marie Katas, a family friend who had accompanied the Barlows to survey the remains of the house. “They don’t even have a spoon.”

The Barlows had lived in Veyo for about three years. They moved there from Hildale, the Utah border community that was, along with Colorado City, Ariz., the longtime enclave of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leader Warren Jeffs and his followers.

When the Barlows first drove up to the house on Tuesday, Katas said, “ironically, the Colorado City Fire Department is here.”

Katas has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money so the Barlows can replace their belongings, which she said has received “donations from both sides of the religious divide.” As of Tuesday afternoon, the campaign had raised $4,300 in donations.

Though the Barlows lost most of their belongings, Katas said it could have been worse.

“They were told that if they would have [been in the house], they wouldn’t have survived,” Katas said. “[The fire] came over the hill like an avalanche.”

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