Thousands of tires burn in Hildale fire that authorities say was intentionally set

Thick, black smoke billows from fire that burned through thousands of tires and threatened structures on property in Hildale, Utah, Nov. 24, 2018 | Submitted photo, St. George News,

ST. GEORGE — An enormous tire fire in Hildale Saturday called for “all hands on deck” as every available firefighter responded to battle a blaze that took more than 24 hours to extinguish. Fire authorities believe the fire was intentionally set.

Fire crews continue to spray water on tires after a fire that burned longer than 24 hours, Hildale, Utah, Nov. 25, 2018 | Photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News

The fire was originally reported on property located near the Short Creek Wash, just east of Jessop Avenue, where enormous clouds of thick black smoke billowed into the air and could be seen for miles.

Firefighters arrived to find “thousands, if not tens of thousands of tires” burning, Hildale/Colorado City Fire Chief Kevin Barlow said.

The property owner told Barlow the tires had been collected over the years, many of which were large semitractor-trailer tires that were stacked in rows nearly 50 feet high along a slope that was 600 feet long and functioned as a barrier to reduce erosion on the creek bank that runs along the property.

Heavy smoke from the fire began drifting down into an area where several homes were located, which fueled firefighting efforts to extinguish the blaze as quickly as possible.

Swing set is charred after a fire spread through the backyard of the property where a massive tire fire may have been set intentionally in Hildale, Utah, Nov. 25, 2018 | Photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News

The rubber continued to burn throughout Saturday night, and crews continued firefighting efforts until the blaze was extinguished, leaving heat and smoke that will likely continue for some time.

Barlow said this type of fire presents firefighters with challenges that are unique to tire fires. As an example, besides the effect on neighboring homes, the thick, oily, acrid smoke coats all of the equipment, turnouts, firefighting apparatus and hoses.

“Natural rubber burns like petroleum products, and creates a very thick, hot, black smoke that coats everything and can create health risks for both the residents and fire crews,” he said.

It took several firefighters more than four hours to clean numerous fire hoses used during the course of the fire due to the residue left by the smoke emitted from burning rubber.

Making matters worse, Barlow said that Saturday’s fire was “obviously set on purpose.”

This isn’t the first suspicious fire reported in the Short Creek area. Barlow said that more than a year ago there was “a rash” of fires that authorities determined were intentionally set, and then things quieted down and the fires stopped.

Firefighters clean fire hoses for more than four hours to remove tacky substance left by the thick smoke that billowed from burning tires in Hildale, Utah, Nov. 25, 2018 | Photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News

Recently though, reports of suspicious fires have “been picking back up” he said, after the lull that has continued for about a year.

Barlow added that aside from the damage, loss and risk of injury, intentional fires are an incredible waste of the department’s resources, particularly when those resources are stretched like they were with Saturday’s fire.

“Our volunteers have been out here working for more than 24 hours straight, and we still aren’t done,” Barlow said.

Hildale/Colorado City Fire and Rescue responded with three engines and 16 volunteer firefighters, as well as EMT’s that remained on standby. No injuries were reported.

Fire crews were still on scene Sunday evening, and the investigation into the fire continues.

This report is based on statements from police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.


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  • Carpe Diem November 26, 2018 at 11:42 am

    Polygamy. What could go wrong?

  • stevenxfiles November 26, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    You know rocks work as a good barrier too. And they don’t burn. I hope they catch the arsonist and these farmers start using more natural means for erosion barriers in the future.

  • Comment November 27, 2018 at 9:38 pm

    Yeehaw! we’s gonna burn us some tars! Go on git dem murshmellows, Cletus.

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