New Wildfire Along I-15 In Washington County Forces Closures, Evacuations

Jul 19, 2020, 5:10 PM | Updated: Jul 13, 2023, 11:21 am

LEEDS, Utah — A new wildfire broke out near Leeds in Washington County, forcing the closure of Interstate 15. Residents of Harrisburg and those west of I-15 in Leeds were ordered to evacuate, as well as the Red Cliffs Campground.

The Cottonwood Trail Fire started Sunday afternoon near southbound I-15 at Exit 27. It was originally estimated to be 1,000 acres in size and growing, according to officials.

Wind gusts up to 15-20 miles per hour caused the fire to jump the freeway and into the median, eventually crossing over to Old Highway 91 near Harrisburg.

I-15 was also closed in both directions, causing major traffic delays. Old Highway 91 was also closed to traffic.

Aly Winder, along with her 11-month-old son, were passengers in a car that got stuck in traffic while the flames approached. Her mom was behind the wheel.

“We could see it hitting the cars in front of us first,” Winder said.

With fire right outside their window, the family watched as chaos surrounded them.

“People were starting to climb out of their cars,” Winder said. “You could see people with their children running up the freeway.”

A break in the traffic let them pull forward and escape the flames. She said they drove around abandoned cars parked in the middle of the road.

“It was completely unexpected and just absolutely terrifying,” she said after arriving home in Las Vegas.

Gerry Reposa and his wife were also stuck on I-15 as cars around them started backing up.

“They were actually turning around on the freeway,” he said, adding that he watched as the blaze jumped the interstate.

“We did see a car in the center divider that was smoldering,” said Gerry Reposa. “It was burnt completely.”

The flames moved quickly, with officials saying the fire had spread across 3,000 acres by 6:30 p.m.

Videos showed cars turning around in Harrisville to escape the flames.

Officials said some structures were being threatened.

Evacuation orders were issued for residents in Harrisburg and those west of I-15 in Leeds. The Red Cliffs Campground was also evacuated.

Northbound I-15 eventually reopened around 7:15 p.m., but southbound lanes remained closed with a two-hour travel delay.

The Harrisburg evacuations were also lifted just before 8:20 p.m.

A cooling and evacuation center was opened at the Washington County Fairgrounds by the American Red Cross of Utah to assist those affected by the fire.

One firefighter was taken to the hospital where he was treated for smoke inhalation. He was later released.

Officials said the fire was human-caused, started by a blown tire along the highway.

Fire officials confirmed one vehicle was destroyed by the fire.

LIVE: Resources are responding to the Cottonwood Trail Fire in Washington County, located along I-15. The fire is…

Posted by KSL 5 TV on Sunday, July 19, 2020


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New Wildfire Along I-15 In Washington County Forces Closures, Evacuations