Hilltop fire in Indianola grows from 50 to 1,800 acres, fire crews reach 12 percent containment
By Robert Stevens
INDIANOLA—A fire southeast of Indianola that authorities believe to be caused by humans grew from 50 acres Monday to more than 1,800 acres by Wednesday morning, burning at least two structures down and forcing about 350 to evacuate.
Timber, brush and short grass fueled the fire, which was burning along a ridge east of U.S. 89 between Milburn and Indianola. As of Wednesday morning (today), the firefighting efforts had finally reached 12 percent containment, according to Leanne Fox, public information officer for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
“We are definitely in a watch and see mode with the fire,” Fox said. “Right now, it all depends on the wind as to what’s going to happen next. It’s hard to tell with Mother Nature.”
A U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) press release said the fire threatened a population of about 500 people. It also put hundreds of structures and an undetermined number of livestock at risk.
By Tuesday night, residents of Blackhawk Estates, Hideaway Valley and about half of Milburn (the area west of Milburn Road) had been ordered to evacuate. This morning, some of those evacuation orders are being de-escalated in Milburn.
The fire started Monday about 3 p.m. A Messenger reporter on the scene within a couple hours observed flames, which were still concentrated in
a relatively small area, towering more than 50 feet in the air.
The fire grew in size quickly, and more resources, including an air attack was ordered. Bulldozers put in a containment line on the northwest edge of the blaze near Indianola that day.
Local and state response was very rapid on Monday, with flying air tankers dropping retardant and helicopters dropping water on at-risk houses.
This morning, Great Basin Team 4 took command of both the Coal Hollow and Hilltop Fires. Due to heavy regional fire activity, Team 4 will be in command of both fires to share resources and improve suppression efforts. Firefighting resources have established a fire camp near Indianola.
As of this morning, 168 personnel were actively battling the fire, along with 17 engines, four bulldozers, air support and at least three hand crews.
Fox said more crews had been requested but fires burning across the West had cut into resources.
The scene during the day on Tuesday was not as dramatic as Monday evening. Instead of towering flames, the hills were smoldering wastelands with charred tree trunks littering the landscape. A haze of smoke filled the entire Indianola Valley, making flames difficult to see.
The Messenger saw cattle walking across U.S. 89, as ranchers tried to move them out of the dry, smoky environment.
Trucks pulling loaded horse trailers as well as trailers loaded with household possessions could be seen on the roads driving away from the fire.
Dell Jensen of the Sanpete County Cattleman’s Association said the cattle were likely grazing near the fire, and their owners decided to move them to “greener” pastures.
“I am sure some (ranchers) had their herd grazing in the area and needed to get them to safety,” he said.
Evacuating livestock or domestic animals is discretionary, Fox said. The Messenger saw plenty of livestock occupying territory that was under evacuation orders for people.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who lives in Fairview, was on scene right after the fire started on Monday helping out with evacuations in Milburn. “This fire took off,” he told Fox News. “It’s going like crazy. The good news is we got everybody out.”
On Tuesday he was Tweeting about the fire, and according to several sources, helping set irrigation lines to spray water towards the flames.
“I can feel the heat from here,” he wrote in one of his Tweets.
Cox also tweeted Tuesday morning with recognition of the “amazing aggressive saves” of two homes by fire crews, and confirmed his home, which is on the Fairview Canyon Road east of where the fire was burning, was safe.
For more information on the Hilltop fire, Twitter tags @hilltopfire and @UtahWildfire both have up-to-date feeds.