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Coal Hollow Fire grows alongside optimism fighting nearby Hill Top Fire

A fire in Sanpete County prompted evacuations for residents of Blackhawk Estates in Fairview on Monday, August 6, 2018.
A fire in Sanpete County prompted evacuations for residents of Blackhawk Estates in Fairview on Monday, August 6, 2018.
Spencer Cox

INDIANOLA, Sanpete County — Hope was improving as crews battled the Hill Top Fire on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after mandatory evacuations were ordered in the Indianola area of Sanpete County.

But into Wednesday evening, the nearby Coal Hollow Fire continued to grow.

Smoke from the Hill Top and Coal Hollow fires can be seen adjacent to each other. The lightning-caused Coal Hollow Fire started Aug. 4. The Incident Management Team said the fire was burning about 6,600 acres, while Carbon County estimated could be as large as 12,000 acres.

"It's continuing to move pretty solidly on all perimeters," fire information officer Sarah Wheeler said of the Coal Hollow Fire. "The fire is very active, and it was difficult to really engage firefighters just due to the fire behavior and the intensity we were seeing today."

As the blaze grew, the Utah County Sheriff's Office ordered evacuations Wednesday night for campers and residents north and west of Scofield Reservoir, including the Aspen Cove subdivision, Bear Canyon Road, Fish Creek and in the Soldier Summit area.

Between 60 and 70 homes were evacuated, officials said.

The office told others in the Scofield, Carbon County, area to prepare to evacuate should the need arise, including Madsen Bay and west Scofield.

The day had begun with progress reported fighting the Hill Top Fire.

"Much more optimism today on the #HilltopFire. Crews had a great night cutting line and back-burning on the northeast side of the fire. Type 2 team (with) significant resources hits the ground today. We have a window to beat this thing," Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox tweeted Wednesday morning.

Cox has a home in nearby Fairview and has been providing social media coverage on the fire since it started.

More good news for residents of the area came late morning Wednesday when the Sanpete County Sheriff's Office announced that Milburn area residents could return to their homes, but warned they should be prepared to evacuate again if the need arises.

Mandatory evacuations for Hideaway Valley south of South Ridge Road and west of Shadow Canyon Road remained in place.

The Hill Top Fire, which started Monday, has burned approximately 1,830 acres and was 12 percent contained Wednesday. Fire officials have announced that the wildfire was human caused and that "witnesses are being cooperative."

Wednesday's efforts focused on protecting U.S. 6. People traveling through the area were cautioned not to stop along the road.

"Up canyon winds moved the fire primarily to the east and across Dairy Fork Road. Firefighting resources continue to monitor all values at risk," according to the Fire Incident Management Team.

On Wednesday, the Great Basin Team 4 took command of both the Coal Hollow and Hill Top fires. Fire officials cautioned motorists along U.S. 89 and U.S. 6 to watch for crews driving between the fires and the fire camp.

Two structures have been burned in the Hill Top Fire, according to wildfire officials, and an estimated 350 people were evacuated. No injuries have been reported.

Previously, evacuations were ordered in Milburn and Blackhawk Estates. The Red Cross has set up an evacuation center in the LDS chapel in Indianola, 8000 E. 36500 North.

The Fire Incident Management Team announced that a community meeting about the fires will be held on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Mt. Pleasant High School. The meeting will be broadcast through the Utah Fire Information accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

Contributing: Ashley Imlay