Father & Son Describe Chaotic Scenes As Wildfire Burns Near I-15
LEEDS, Utah – A father and son said there were some tense moments as flames and smoke from the Cottonwood Trail Fire roared right up to travelers on Interstate 15 in southern Utah.
For a tense and chaotic half-hour on Sunday, drivers and passengers caught in that fiery melee didn’t quite know where to turn.
“There were definitely a few moments I was thinking we were going to be in serious trouble,” said David Hunt, who was with his son Griffin Hunt.
They were driving home to California from a wrestling tournament in Ogden. They were riding in a van with 10 people heading south on I-15 with their coach at the wheel, when their van slowed to a crawl. Traffic had slowed because there was a large billowing column of smoke in front of them.
“The wind was blowing really strong. That fire was just moving really fast,” said Hunt.
Within minutes, it was a dangerous free-for-all, as everybody tried to get away. That’s when Griffin Hunt started shooting video on his phone.
“It’s right here coming towards us,” someone in the van said as flames climb over the ridge in the video.
That’s when everybody in the van knew this was not an ordinary traffic jam.
“You can feel the heat,” said another passenger.
“The winds pushed that fire, and we could see it getting closer and closer,” David Hunt said.
Nearly everyone turned around and headed north in the southbound lanes to escape.
“It would’ve been easy to panic in that situation,” said Hunt, but their coach kept his cool in the chaos.
Amid the growing flames, they got jammed up again along the side of the interstate as they contemplated their next move.
“Max, do we have to get out, or what?” one of the passengers asked the driver.
They stayed put but a group they were traveling with had to abandon their car. They were further up the road and got caught in a snarl of traffic there.
“They basically got stuck and were forced into the situation of, hey they just had to bail out,” said Hunt. “Luckily we were able to get away from it. We thought we were going to have to make that same decision actually and contemplated it for a few split seconds.”
Their friends’ car was swallowed up by the fire, with the just the shell of the vehicle remaining. No one was hurt and their friends were picked up by other motorists immediately.
“They grabbed a few quick belongings and took off. The bulk of their luggage and everything else they had to leave behind,” said Hunt.
Griffin Hunt was caught up in the excitement of shooting video. He said he didn’t feel too panicky about the whole situation.
“I wasn’t too worried,” he said. “I didn’t feel anything negative was going to happen. So I was just trying to make sure to keep people calm.”
Then, just as quickly as the fire flared, the road cleared where they had come from. They turned around again and headed south.
“In a matter of minutes, we were doing 60 mph headed south on the highway,” David Hunt said.
They felt fortunate that nobody was hurt. Because of the adrenaline rush they got from the excitement, they’re quite sure that they’ll have an amazing memory to share for quite a while.
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