Compiled by Tom Haraldsen
To say that 2017 brought with it a vast variety of news stories would be an understatement. Three stories dominated the attention of Iron County residents this past year, with several others also being significant events. Here’s our look at this past year’s top stories.
- BRIAN HEAD FIRE
On June 17, the largest wildfire in the area’s history broke out near the Brian Head Resort. Within days, what started as a small brush fire swelled to 43,000 acres, and eventually to more than 70,000 acres. Fire crews from throughout the west battled the fire for a month before it was fully contained in mid-July.
Robert Ray Lyman, a resident of Taylorsville, was later charged with starting the fire while burning weeds on his property, and a jury trial is scheduled to begin in January.
In August, parts of Parowan suffered some flood damage after heavy rains washed down over the fire’s burn scar. Officials are still evaluating the cost of fighting the fire in addition to the damages it caused to structures.
- TEMPLE DEDICATED
On Sunday, Dec. 9, the Cedar City Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was dedicated by President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Council of the Twelve Apostles. The event followed several weeks of public open houses for the temple, as well as a Cultural Celebration held at SUU on Dec. 8. The temple had been under construction for just over two years and was announced at the Church’s General Conference in April 2013.
- LAS VEGAS SHOOTING
The assault by a lone gunman during the Route 91 Harvest Festival Concert on Oct. 1 in Las Vegas struck close to home, when Cedar City resident Heather Alvarado was among the 58 victims killed. Tributes poured into the community from friends and neighbors of Heather, and her funeral services on Oct. 12 were well attended. Students at SUU and community members also held a candlelight vigil in her honor shortly after the incident.
- PAROWAN HONORED, SALUTED
Parowan City was named one of the top 25 best towns in America by carrentals.com, an Expedia company. The blog posted In April said Parowan is “a bounty of fun,” citing in part its proximity to national parks and forests.
Three months before that, Parowan residents turned out in force on Jan. 13 to celebrate the community’s 166th birthday. Students from grade school through high school performed in the Parowan High gym, and local speakers touted the history of the city.
- COURT CASES
There were several prominent court cases in 2017. Here are three of them:
A Cedar City midwife was sentenced in 5th District Court with second-degree manslaughter after a twin baby she delivered died in 2012 shortly after its birth. Vickie Dawn Sorensen, 54, was sentenced to 36 months of adult supervised probation and some jail time.
Former Cedar City Events Director Byron Linford was sentenced on Feb. 22 for misuse of public funds while employed by the city. He was charged with misuse of public money and attempted forgery. His sentence was 364 days in jail to be completed in two separate sentences.
Eight Cedar Middle School employees received a $340,000 settlement from the Iron County School District in a lawsuit they filed in federal court on claims of sexual harassment. The employees–six teachers, a teacher’s aide and a secretary—filed the suit against the school district and three school employees.
- POLICE/FIREFIGHTER ACTION
On Jan. 10, firefighters responded to a vehicle fire in Cedar City, which was part of a string of vehicle arsons that occurred in the early morning hours of that day. A Beaver man was apprehended after victims identified him as a likely suspect. He was charged with six counts of arson, a second-degree felony. No one was injured.
Two armed suspects with outstanding warrants from Colorado were captured after a high-speed car chase through the county in late August. The suspects were caught in Parowan after a joint pursuit by ICSO and CCPD.
Iron County officers were also involved discovery of munitions under a burned out cabin near the Brian Head fire site.
They also assisted in the search and recovery of victims of a single-engine plane crash that killed a father and two children from Sandy near Panguitch. Randy Wells and his two children were flying from Phoenix to Salt Lake City when their plane went off radar. A gofundme account raised over $125,000 for Well’s wife Kristin, who was 20 weeks pregnant at the time of the plane accident.
Municipal elections were held on Nov. 7 in Brian Head, Cedar Highlands, Cedar City, Kanarraville, Paragonah and Parowan. A combination of incumbents and newly-elected officials will begin new terms in offices this month.
- CEDAR NORTH ELEMENTARY
It was a combination of excitement and nostalgia as an open house on Aug. 10 preceded the opening of the new Cedar North Elementary School, on a site adjacent to the original North Elementary.
- CHAMBER HONORS
Mike Phillips was honored as Man of the Year, and Becki Bronson as Woman of the Year, by the Cedar City Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 19, at the Chamber’s annual awards dinner.
- PROMINENT VISITORS
Many distinguished guests enjoyed coming to Iron County this past year. Two of the distinguished were Emmy-award winning CBS journalist Bob Schieffer, who was commencement speaker at SUU’s graduation ceremony on April 28, and Grammy-Award winning singer Gladys Knight, who performed at SUU on Dec. 7.
The Iron County Today family also mourned the passing of Shirley Stahle, wife of Publisher R. Gail Stahle, on July 13. She was 79.