Cinema Court Fire evacuees who lost their homes in June have started to return.
Six of the nine homes that burned on June 12 have been replaced and others continue to work through plans for rebuilding. The blaze was started by a teen in Moab.
During the months since the devastating fire, homeowners salvaged what they could from the ashes and are learning to let go of the rest. Some homeowners lost everything, while others found remnants. An intact china cabinet. An unopened deck of Maverick cards still wrapped in cellophane. Hand-drawn pictures in a fire-proof safe. Diplomas.
Now, they’re making new memories.
On any given day, Bill Partridge is playing music from across the generations — 1930s to the present — in his shop at his family’s La Sal Avenue home. That is, except for the months after the Cinema Court Fire when his family was displaced after the loss of their multi-generational home.
Despite their loss, Bill and his family moved into their new home built in the same location just two days after Thanksgiving, and are looking forward to bringing the community together to celebrate their return.
“We’d like to have a barbecue, a potluck,” Bill said. “Then everybody just sitting around and …”
His wife of more than 20 years, Ivy, completed his sentence: “Making new memories.”
Bill and Ivy bought their Moab home in 1992, from Bill’s father, Kenneth, who had moved it to the property from near La Sal in the 1960s. By the time it burned down in 2018, it had housed four generations of the Partridge family.
“I was amazed by those 100-foot flames and that American flag lasting through the whole thing,” Bill said. “And I was also amazed somebody was watching out for us.”
A good friend and nearby neighbor had called Bill on June 12 and said there was a fire in the creek.
“We were sitting in the living room talking to our daughter-in-law and our daughter. We had no idea there was a fire,” Ivy said.
“The kids were out on the porch,” Bill said. “I had a TV out there and they was all eating chicken nuggets and watching Mickey Mouse Playhouse and it happened that quick, it was like a blow torch coming up on the fence.”
Ashes from the family’s 27-foot camper parked in the driveway were already falling as they gathered their grandchildren and hurried out the front door. Ivy said that within 15 minutes of the grandchildren evacuating, the Partridge’s home was completely gone.
“If his friend wouldn’t have called us, we might not have gotten our grandkids out,” Ivy said.
“If it would have happened at night, none of us would have got out,” Bill said.
The property and land loss in the fire was estimated to be about $1.4 million. A multitude of agencies have helped the families, including Monument Waste, which hauled away the charred remains for no cost to the fire victims.
FAMILY ROOTS IN MOAB
Bill began working in uranium mines around Moab at age 13 with his father. Bill said his father Kenneth didn’t want him to turn down a college scholarship to continue working in the mines, yet he spent 40 years as a mechanic in Kanab and Moab. For a time, he worked at the Atlas uranium mill site in Moab.
Bill said he had his family’s longtime collection of mechanic books, manuals and mining tools dating back to 1929 were lost in the fire.
“I had probably 250 to 300 books,” Bill said. “Before they had computers, it would show you the part you could buy from the store to put in. My dad was a mechanic, I was a mechanic, my brother was a mechanic. I had almost three of everything you could need.”
In the cleanup, he said Monument Waste removed more than a dozen dumpsters full of metal from his shop.
When Bill worked in the mines, Ivy cared for their children and home. She said their grandchildren haven’t been quick to forget about the fire.
“We lost everything we had,” Ivy said. “We lost all our pictures. Pictures of our kids growing up, pictures of our parents who have passed away.”
During the cleanup, a photo album was found and a few documents in a fire-proof safe remained unscathed.
Another fire victim, Janet Gay, has been a nurse at Moab Regional Hospital over the course of the last 38 years. She watched her East San Juan Drive home burn from the Pack Creek bridge during the fire. She also said she lost everything in the fire, except for a single box of treasured items, a handful of keepsakes and a few photo albums.
Like Ivy, she said her grandchildren haven’t easily forgotten the fire, either. She has 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren in Moab. The worst part was the devastation the great-grandchildren felt at the loss of the family’s home, she said.
“This is where they all come,” Gay said. “When my house was gone, they were really upset about it. They couldn’t figure out what happened and why. It’s good for them to see the positive things that came out of it and that we have our house back, to show them that this could happen but that it’s going to be OK.”
She and her husband, Reggie, were immediately displaced for two days following the fire. They moved in nextdoor with their son and daughter-in-law before moving into their new home, rebuilt over the original home’s location, in October.
“It was a very hard year,” she said. “We’re definitely happy to have a home. I definitely want to thank Moab for all their help because we definitely wouldn’t have gotten help without Moab. We appreciate that.”
In total, Gay said the community raised nearly $100,000 to help the fire victims.
“Moab gave us all about $11,000 a piece, and that’s what helped us get our furniture,” Gay said.
She’s looking forward to a better year gathering with her family at their new home, with plans to build a new play area for the children.
Rick and Becky Carrigan grew up in Moab and moved onto their South Wasatch Avenue property in 1980. Like the Partridge and Gay families, the Carrigans lost everything in the fire, but a shed and bits and pieces that could be salvaged from the rubble of their home. The backyards of the Partidges and Carrigans properties are attached; they said the experience has reconnected them as neighbors.
“A lot of things went up in smoke,” Rick said.
Rick, who runs a home appliance repair business, said he is thankful for the firefighters who saved his home computer that he uses for his business.
“They kept my business alive,” he said. “I’m thankful.”
Becky is a Grand County School District bus driver for elementary students. When the family was allowed back onto the property to sift through the remains of their home, she said they found an intact china cabinet. Despite the cabinet tipping over as the wall fell, her family’s glass heirlooms, wedding gifts and dishes were found without any breaks.
The Partridges and Carrigans said they saw firefighters in tears as they worked to extinguish the fire. Becky said she realized that five of the firefighters had once been students on her bus route.
In the following days, friends of the Carrigans from church helped to clean up their property. Becky said she is grateful for the patience and kindness the Moab community has shown to them.
“They were so patient,” Becky said. “That was closure for me. That was me being able to say, OK, that stuff is gone.”
As time went on, donations poured in from the community.
“We’re so grateful for their donations,” she said. “We have gratitude for their concern.”
“We’ve met a lot of people and made all these reconnections,” Rick said. “Now they’re a part of our world. I think that’s part of what we’re looking forward to — keeping those friendships alive.”
They’re also looking forward to a neighborhood barbecue potluck, with tentative plans for a block party in June to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the fire.
Bill has a new stereo now. And as his neighbors are working on their cars in their driveways, they will still hear Bill play songs by Billy Holliday, Hank Williams, Billy Goodman, Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids, just like old times.
“They always tell Bill, turn up your music,” Ivy said. “It’s hard but some days are better than others.”
“You just got to live one day at a time,” Bill said. “One thing I want to say is the community, they were so good to us. The police, the firefighters, everybody, they were so good to us.”
A similar version of this story recently appeared in the Moab Area Real Estate Magazine.
Families welcome new homes in Cinema Court Fire cleanup
“I was amazed by those 100-foot flames and that American flag lasting through the whole thing.”