Hollow Fire consumes 1,400 acres, threatens Indianola

Robert Stevens // Messenger Photo
The Hollow Fire encroaches on Indianola on Friday night.

INDIANOLA—When a Fairview man called 911 after driving past a small wildfire in the hills near Indianola on Friday, it was just a little thing, smoldering in the hills.

Little did Jared Livingston know that the flames, which would go on to be dubbed the “Hollow Fire” by Utah fire officials, was going to grow fast in the mid-summer heat and threaten the entire community before the afternoon was up.

“The amount of smoke was minimal when I called it in,” Livingston said. “No more than a small campfire.”

When Messenger managing editor Robert Stevens arrived on the scene later that afternoon, the wildfire in the hills immediately northwest of Indianola had grown to 40 acres, and it looked hungry.

Over the next 12 hours the fire grew steadily, despite efforts to stop it from firefighting agencies that came from across the county.

Although the cause of ignition is not yet known, Sanpete County Fire Warden Tom Peterson warned the Messenger it was going to be a dangerous fire season. A dry spring, high temperatures and active winds bring high risk wildfire seasons, and Peterson says that is exactly what we are dealing with this year. High risk activities such as target shooting, campfires, dragging chains while towing and other human activities are responsible for the vast majority of all wildfires, although natural occurrences such as lightning are also known to set a wildfire ablaze commonly as well. No lightning was reported in the area on the day of the Hollow Fire’s ignition.

Utah fire officials reported the first day of combatting the Hollow Fire, which grew from a few dozen acres to more than 600, was about establishing control lines along the southern and western perimeters of the fire to stop the forward progression of the burn. Efforts managed to bring the fire under seven percent containment within 24 hours.

On Saturday, when the fire had grown to more than 1,400 acres, the efforts focused on completing control lines around the entire fire perimeter. Crews worked to establish more control over the perimeter and to extinguish sources of heat within it. By the end of Saturday, efforts brought the Hollow Fire to 40 percent containment.

Evacuation notices were issued for the Big Horn Ranch area, as well as homes between Big Horn Ranch Road and Beck Road, but the orders have since been lifted.

The end of Saturday also brought a transition in management of the fire. A Type 3 Incident Management Team arrived in the area. This kind of team is a multi-agency collaboration meant to control extended emergency incidents.

Sunday’s efforts were mostly about continued extinguishing of heat sources within the perimeter, but the fire was brought to 60 percent containment.

By Monday, the fire no longer threatened any structures at all, say Utah fire officials, and no clo

sures of any kind were in effect.

As of Monday, the scene had 14 engines, one Hotshot crew, two dozers, one grader, three water-tenders and an initial attack squad working to bring the fire to full containment.

Tuesday brought with it 80 percent containment, and the return of command of the fire to local fire crews.

Jeffrey Holcomb of Indianola watched the blaze grow from a smolder to a 1,400 acre fire-breathing monster feeding on dry grass, sagebrush, oak and maple. He watched from his property, which sits across U.S. 89 from the fire, late into the night. His young children, MaryJane and Leonardo, did the same, bicycles parked on the side of the road, briefly holding hands as they watched their valley go up in flames while the fire crews battled for control.

“It was a little uncomfortable,” Holcomb told the Messenger. “I stayed up most of the night checking on it. Those folks did an amazing job of getting it down.”

Emerald Ralston, a public information officer assigned to the incident, says the community should be feeling pretty good about the state of the fire. She says nearly everything is under control, and the only thing that could complicate matters would be high gusting winds that carried sparks to areas with fresh fuel. Dust Devils in the area have been a concern for this same reason, but for now, Ralston says there isn’t much to worry about anymore.

Robert Stevens // Messenger Photo
Leonardo and MarJane Holcomb, children of Jeffrey Holcomb of Indianola, huddle together next to their bicycles as they watch their valley burn on Friday.