MOAB — Officials are seeking the public's help with the investigation of the fire that destroyed 10 homes in Moab.
The blaze is fully contained and no longer poses a threat to houses, authorities say, but evacuation orders remain in effect for the area. The fire was human-caused, according to Grand County Sheriff Steve White.
Ten homes, two garages and a variety of outbuildings were destroyed in the fire, Moab Police Chief Jim Winder told the Deseret News on Wednesday after more losses had been reported.
Despite the progress dousing the flames, evacuations early Wednesday remained in place for roughly 150 people. State fire officials said evacuations were expected to be lifted Thursday.
Rick Carrigan and his wife, Becky Carrigan, lost their home to the fire. They made it out just in time with their dog, but the flames spread so quickly they had to leave their three cats behind, Rick Carrigan said.
Within minutes of noticing the smoke, the Carrigans fled from the house as the fire started "sweeping around" and evacuations began, Rick Carrigan told the Deseret News.
"We basically got out of there with our old dog and the clothes on our backs," he said. "It was fast."
Though the couple has lost the house they've lived in for 21 years and three of their pets, Rick Carrigan says he's grateful.
"There's going to be the settling in, I'm sure, and the coming down off it. And there's going to be possibly resentment that one might have to deal with, and then there's just going to be, I guess you call it a grieving, over the loss," he explained.
Rick Carrigan said there are a lot of memories "that went up in flames."
"We're still alive. And you hear this often, you know. You've got to live your life, that's the most important thing. And it is so very true. You live to count your blessings, and I'm very grateful," he said.
He said he's thankful for the fire and sheriff's departments, and friends and family who have been "gathering around and are helping us in our time of need."
"I've got a lot of friends. I didn't realize how many people do jump out and express their concern for us," Rick Carrigan said. "Whether we like it or not, we are all in this together."
He said he regrets not being "more proactive" about encouraging a neighbor who had an abandoned property to take care of weeds on the property. He speculated similar dry, overgrown areas helped the fire spread.
In the hopes that what happened to him doesn't happen to others, he encourages people who have weeds around their houses to get them knocked down, because in the event of a fire "it'll flat burn your house down," he said.
Investigators don't yet know what sparked the blaze. Five firefighters and several residents were treated for smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion Tuesday evening, but no serious injuries were reported.
The fire began about 5:50 p.m. Tuesday as a brush fire along Pack Creek, near an apartment complex, said Moab Fire Chief Phillip Mosher. It spread rapidly, destroying a string of buildings before crews contained it about 9 p.m.
Richard Coffinberry, who was among several homeowners who tried to help firefighters control the blaze using garden hoses, said that every time he managed to douse one flame, others popped up.
Teams from several agencies worked overnight, Mosher said, and firefighters continued to battle hot spots early Wednesday morning.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox arrived in Moab Wednesday to survey the damage and speak with city leaders and residents. Charred siding, ash-covered cars and smoldering debris could be seen throughout the neighborhood.
"Many of these structures were uninsured and uninsurable. And that's a terrible thing. And these good people are going to need all of our help," Cox said.
According to a message on Moab Police Department's Facebook page, the Grand County Sheriff's Office has requested that anyone who experienced a loss of property in the fire to file a report with its office at 25 S. 100 East.
Families or individuals who have been displaced as a result of the fire are directed to the Moab Valley Fire Department, 45 S. 100 East, where representatives with the Red Cross are available to assist with short-term needs. The Moab Veterinary Clinic is offering free pet boarding for those driven from their homes by the fire.
An account has been established to accept donations to benefit those who were impacted by the fire, police noted. The account is at Grand County Credit Union. Donations should be made to Cinema Court Fire.
Gov. Gary Herbert took to Facebook Wednesday evening to encourage Utahns "to work together to protect our homes, our communities and our beautiful public lands."
He urged everyone to follow fire restrictions, heed fireworks restrictions and remove dead vegetation from around their homes.4 comments on this story
"I am heartbroken for those who have lost homes to fire, and I am grateful that so far this year, we have not lost lives to these disasters. We extend our thanks to the many firefighters and emergency teams who have responded to calls for help and worked around the clock to tame these fires," he wrote.
Grand County officials said they are taking steps to prevent additional devastation this summer. Fire restrictions currently in place will be tightened further, Sheriff Steven White said Tuesday evening.
Contributing: Sean Moody