Historic Church Property Spared During Fire
October 2007

“Historic Church Property Spared During Fire,” Ensign, Oct. 2007, 77–78

Historic Church Property Spared During Fire

On July 7, 2007, the Milford Flat fire, the largest blaze ever seen in the state of Utah, burned dangerously close to but miraculously spared the Church’s historic Cove Fort, which originally served as a home and shelter for early pioneers.

The fort was evacuated as high winds drove the flames toward the property at between 40 and 60 miles per hour (65 to 95 km per hour). But despite the absence of firefighters or physical barriers, the fort, an outlying barn, and the eight trailers that house most of the couple missionaries serving at the fort were spared.

“There was no damage whatsoever to the fort,” said Elder Kent Jones, director of the historic site. “There’s no question in our minds that the trailer park and fort were protected.”

When he returned to the site following the evacuation, Elder Jones says it appeared that the fire had burned to within 150 feet (46 m) of a barn located about 200 feet (61 m) from the fort, but had stopped in knee-high field grass and turned in a different direction. The fire had also burned right up to the trailer park property line but didn’t jump the road that circles the trailers.

The fort, located some 200 miles (322 km) south of Salt Lake City, was built of volcanic rock and limestone. President Brigham Young called Ira Hinckley, grandfather of President Gordon B. Hinckley, to direct the building of the fort in 1867. The purpose of the fort at that time was to offer protection and refreshment to people traveling between Idaho and California.

Now, 140 years later, the fort has been restored and is a historical site where 32 couple missionaries give tours to visitors, explaining what life was like for the early pioneers.

The fire, which was started by lightning on July 6, 2007, burned more than 363,000 acres (172,000 ha)—some 567 square miles (1,470 square km)—over a period of 10 days.

Flames from the Milford Flat Fire in Utah soar into the sky just off I-15 near Cove Fort. (Photograph by Scott Winterton, Deseret Morning News.)