As the Coal Hollow Fire grew past 17,208 acres Thursday, the Utah Highway Patrol briefly closed U.S. Highway 6, and ordered new evacuations in Utah and Carbon counties.
According to the Utah Highway Patrol, as of about 5:30 p.m. Thursday, U.S. 6 was closed in both directions from mile marker 185 near the junction of U.S. Highway 89 to mile marker 195. According to Brandon Jensen, spokesperson for the Manti-La Sal National Forest, some parts of the fire moved within about 100 yards of U.S. 6 in Spanish Fork Canyon. The Highway Patrol was able to open U.S. 6 at about 6:30 p.m. Thursday, but said drivers should expect closures at any time if winds shift and affect the fire’s path.
There was 0 percent containment, as of Thursday evening, according to fire officials.
The lightning-caused fire started Saturday and burned past Skyline Ridge on Thursday, prompting further evacuations, according to a U.S. Forest Service press release. On Thursday afternoon, the evacuation maps for the fire were updated to more accurately reflect current and planned evacuations. Utah County evacuated Sheep Creek Road and Campground on Thursday evening, according to Utah Fire Information.
On Thursday afternoon, residents across Utah County received an emergency alert informing them of evacuations in relation to the Coal Hollow Fire. According to Sgt. Spencer Cannon with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, the evacuation notice was sent to a larger audience than was intended, and most areas of Utah County were safe from the fire.
We are aware that residents have received an evacuation notice for the Coal Hollow fire. Spanish Fork City is not being evacuated. We will provide more information as it becomes available.— Spanish Fork Police (@SpanishForkPD) August 9, 2018
During a fire update meeting Thursday night, Tim Roide with the fire management team said the fire spread significantly Wednesday. More than 200 firefighters are working on the fire, but hot and dry weather conditions, along with plenty of dry fuels like cheat grass, conifers and pinyon/juniper stands in steep terrain, created extreme fire behavior starting Wednesday night.
More resources are needed, Roide added, but wildfire teams are already spread thin because of other fires raging throughout the West. Because of this, crews have focused their efforts on protecting U.S. 6, power lines, railroad tracks and homes in the area, explained Dave Vining of the fire management team.
“Our goal is to not let it cross the highway,” Vining said.
Roide estimated crews could be fighting the Coal Hollow Fire for another two weeks.
Embers from the fire were spotted at least a mile away, according to the release. Crews worked on the fire throughout the night Wednesday, fighting 500-foot flames and fire whirls, the press release stated.
To put the flame size into perspective, the Kimball Tower at Brigham Young University is barely 160 feet tall. The fire brought hazy, smoky air to much of Utah County on Thursday.
Smoke from the fire is expected to linger in the nearby canyons and valleys, but “as inversions lift, fire activity increases,” the release reported.
“We want to thank the community for their hospitality,” the release continued.
Firefighters will work to contain the fire east along U.S. 6 to the south near Clear Creek Road.
Search and rescue teams and deputies with the county sheriff’s offices are notifying homeowners of evacuations and road closures.
Evacuations were ordered in Utah County in areas west of Scofield Reservoir in Bear Ridge (close to Bennion Creek and south of U.S. 6) and south along Fish Creek Ridge, according to a Facebook post from Utah County Sheriff’s Office. Homes south of U.S. 6 to the Carbon County line are also under evacuation, including the junction with the highway to Scofield.
The subdivisions in Scofield Mountain Homes and Scofield Mountain Estates are under pre-evacuation notice, along with areas in Madison Bay, Scofield West, Fish Creek and the Clear Creek Community.
Other areas under evacuation outside of the subdivisions include Bear Canyon Road, Fish Creek and access roads from Soldier Summit not including U.S. 6.
“Residents and visitors in these areas should be prepared to evacuate by making a plan,” the release reported.
A community meeting will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. at the North Sanpete High School in Mount Pleasant where fire officials and local land managers will provide information on the fires and answer questions.
The meeting will also be streamed through Utah Fire Information on Facebook and Twitter.