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‘We’re going to die': Motorists stranded on freeway share story as Cottonwood Trail Fire burned along I-15

Posted at 9:38 PM, Jul 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-19 23:39:06-04

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah — After a tire blow-out sparked a now 3,000-acre fire off of Interstate 15 in southern Utah, a mother-daughter duo are sharing their experience as flames burned next to their vehicle.

Black smoke filled the air near Harrisburg Sunday afternoon as the Cottonwood Trail Fire stranded motorists in their cars on I-15.

“Within a minute of it being on top of the hill, all of a sudden it was right next to us,” said Aly Winder.

Aly, her mom Tina, and her 11-month-old son Cole were among the dozens who sat in gridlock on the highway while they watched the fire approach.

“It is right there, are you kidding me?” Tina can be heard saying in a video they took while they were on the roadway.

“It kind of seemed like life or death in the moment, I mean there’s nowhere for you to go,” Aly said.

In the video you can see the flames approaching from their right, a mountain to their left, and traffic all around.

“What do we do? I don’t know what to do!” Tina said as the video continued.

“We just sit here! We just sit here!” Aly responded.

“Holy ****, I don’t know what to do!” The exchange continued as flames can be seen getting closer to the car.

“I don’t normally swear, but I did. I feared for our lives — we were going to die. It was terrifying,” Tina said as she reflected on the heated moment.

Within 60 seconds, 20-mile-per-hour winds pushed the flames closer.

“I have never seen anything move so fast in my life,” Aly said. “People were popping out of their cars, people off roading, people just screaming and going crazy.”

It was only a matter of minutes, but for Amy and Tina, that felt like an eternity.

“It was like [we were] sitting ducks, just wait and see what was going to happen. There was no choice for us to move, so we kind of just saw our life flash before our eyes,” Aly continued.

As the flames burned directly beside their car, traffic finally started to move.

“Go, go, go, go, go!” Aly can be heard shouting in the video as the smoke and flames consumed the entire side of the road.

Now, Aly, Tina and Cole are leaving the Beehive state feeling thankful for their safety… and with a new story to tell.

“There were tears, there was a little bit of screaming,” Aly laughed. “We’re just happy we made it through.”

The fire prompted a total closure of I-15.

Northbound I-15 is now open. Southbound I-15 remains closed with a 2-hour travel delay. A detour is in place that allows motorists to take exit 27 onto SR-17 to SR-9 back to I-15.

Crews evacuated Silver Reef, as well as the towns of Harrisburg and Leeds.

Evacuations have since been lifted for Harrisburg.

A cooling and evacuation center has been established at the Washington County Fairgrounds for residents who are still out of their homes.

The center is in the Grafton Building at 5500 West and 339 South in Hurricane.