Three outbuildings were burned to the ground in a 20-acre fire in Castle Valley on Saturday, May 26. No electricity or phone service and high winds complicated efforts by multi-agency firefighters and volunteers. No homes or lives were lost.
The fire began in an outbuilding on Cliffview Drive. The fire then jumped the lane and burned an additional two outbuildings at a separate home. Windows at the second home were blown out from the heat of the fire, said Castle Valley Fire Chief Ron Drake.
Flames raced across the open range of dry cheat grass and sage brush, pushed by winds averaging 35 mph with gusts of more than 60 mph, according to the National Weather Service. Four additional homes were threatened by the flames, but volunteers and firefighters from the Castle Valley Fire Department, Moab Valley Fire Protection and Moab Area Interagency Fire Center were able to stop the fire in time.
There was no electricity in the valley due to breaks in the lines from high winds between La Sal and Pack Creek, and another between Pack Creek and Castle Valley, said Mike Kemp from Rocky Mountain Power. The nearest Castle Valley Fire Department pumping station required an electric pump to get water, requiring firefighters to go further up the valley to the fire department where there was a gravity feed from the Seventh Day Adventists’ irrigation pond, Drake said.
Moab Valley Fire Protection sent out a brush truck with a compressed air foam system that multiplies the cooling effect of the water by 300 times, said Battalion Chief Phillip Mosher.
The wind storm also knocked out phone lines to Castle Valley residents for nearly 24 hours. The Grand County Sheriff’s Mobile Command Post was parked at the Castle Valley Town Hall during the phone outage that continued to Sunday afternoon, allowing residents to make 911 calls if necessary, as cell service is spotty in the valley, said Chief Deputy Darrel Mecham.
In separate news: The Sun Rise Mine fire near Paradox, Colo., was 30 percent contained as of Tuesday afternoon. More than 5,300 acres were burned since Friday, May 25. Buckeye Reservoir Road, R 1 Road and John Brown Road are closed to public access for public and firefighter safety, according to the Interagency Incident Information Center.