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Wildfire burn scar mud taints water in Panguitch

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

PANGUITCH — Taps are running brown in the small southern Utah community of Panguitch.

The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office announced on Saturday morning that heavy rains had caused contamination of the water supply.

Water flowing off of the burn scar from the 2017 Brian Head Fire appeared to be the cause.

Sheriff Danny Perkins said residents of Panguitch shouldn’t use their culinary water at all. He said boiling the water would not be an effective way to remove the contaminants.

The sheriff’s office advised residents on Saturday morning to use bottled water until the problem could be addressed.

The Brian Head Fire began on June 17, 2017 near the town of Brian Head east of Cedar City. Investigators determined it was sparked by a property owner who was burning weeds. The fire spread over more than 70,000 acres, destroying at least 13 structures and forcing evacuations and closures on the Dixie National Forest.

Prosecutors charged the suspected fire-starter, Robert Ray Lyman, with misdemeanor counts of reckless burning and burning without a permit. Lyman pleaded not guilty to both counts. A jury trial is scheduled to begin on Aug. 29 in Cedar City, though Lyman has requested a change of venue.