KANOSH, Millard County The Milford Flat fire burning in Beaver and Millard counties was fully contained Monday afternoon, according to Jim Springer, spokesman for the state Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
The lightning-sparked fire burned more than 363,000 acres and was the largest wildfire in Utah history. By Sunday, the blaze cost approximately $4 million.
Many crews were reassigned from the Milford blaze to other wildfires burning across the western United States on Monday, Springer said. Crews that remained focused on hot spots within the containment lines and maintained the lines.
"We're in a heavy demobilization process where we're releasing crews and equipment," said Kathy Jo Pollack, a spokeswoman for the interagency fire team battling the fire. "A lot of them are being picked up on other fires in the West."
The Milford Flat fire has burned more than 567 square miles of sagebrush, grass and juniper. It was sparked by lightning on July 6 and swelled to become Utah's largest wildfire.
The impact of the blaze could leave ranchers in central and southern Utah in dire straits.
Beaver County Sheriff's Lt. Raymond Goodwin said Monday his count was up to 109 dead cattle.
He expects to find even more carcasses when he goes out this morning to more areas torched by the massive Milford Flat fire.
"It's going to be devastating to the cattlemen," he said, adding that the deer carcasses he has seen outnumber the cattle four to one.
Rangeland is burned, and it could be years before cattle are permitted back on that land because of rehabilitation efforts.
"It could be two to three years to allow that seed and new plant varieties to become established and go back to be grazed," said Kyle Stephens, the deputy commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
Things were not looking good for ranchers before the fire even started. Years of drought have depleted hay crops and some wells have run dry. It's also driven the price of hay sky high. Premium quality dairy hay has been fetching as much as $140 per ton. Midgrade hay is going for $90 to $100 per ton.
The Milford Flat fire could drive hay prices even higher, as demand starts to exceed supply.
"That's maybe played into it a little bit," Stephens said. "A lot of our leftover hay from 2006 was actually used and purchased to address the blizzard situations in Colorado last winter."
Goodwin, who also raises cattle, fears that many ranchers in Beaver County will get priced out and sell out.
"That fire was the fastest-moving and most devastating fire I've experienced in my lifetime and law enforcement career," he said.
State agriculture officials are trying to do what they can to mitigate the impact of the wildfire. On Monday, state agriculture commissioner Leonard Blackham met with Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. to discuss what resources are available.
Agriculture officials are talking to federal and state agencies about letting ranchers put cattle on grazing allotments or conservation lands that might be made available on a temporary basis.
"We recognize the impact the agriculture community is sustaining as a result of drought to begin with, and coupled with fire on top of that," Stephens said.
Elsewhere in Utah, firefighters continued to make progress on several major fires. In Uintah County, the Neola fire was 85 percent contained Monday, according to state officials. The fire, which killed three men and destroyed a dozen homes in late June, is burning lodgepole pine, spruce, grass, brush and pinyon juniper in the Ashley National Forest. The $7.2 million inferno has torched 68 square miles.
The Mathis fire in Price is fully contained, as is the Jungle wildfire near Ferron, state officials reported. Two other fires burning just over the Utah state line in Arizona were also fully contained. The Greenville Bench fire burning just south of the Milford Flat fire was 80 percent contained Monday.
Meanwhile, new fires near Kanarraville in Iron County and near St. George in Washington County kept workers on their toes. The Iron County fire, dubbed Bumblebee, threatened about a dozen homes Monday night bur burned only about 200 acres.Fire restrictions remain in place statewide, and officials are on the lookout for new flare-ups, as dry lightning combined with record-level heat is expected in several parts of the state through Tuesday night.