[Rachel Fixsen / Moab Sun News]

On June 9, firefighters responded to report of smoke in Pack Creek, southeast of Moab. Strengthened by strong winds, the fire grew through the rest of the day, being first pushed upslope by strong southwest winds into the Manti-La Sal National Forest lands in the foothills below Mt. Tukuhnikivatz. Later that evening, the fire was pushed by downslope winds through the Pack Creek subdivision, the location of dozens of structures and homes, causing residents to evacuate. 

A June 10 Facebook post from the Manti-La Sal National Forest estimated the fire, which is still uncontained, to be about 400 acres. A temporary shelter for displaced residents has been set up at the La Sal Community Center (Highway 46, La Sal). 

The cause of the blaze has been determined to be an unattended campfire close to the Forest Service’s Pack Creek Picnic Area. A thick, active smoke column was visible from town throughout the afternoon, and by evening the sky over Moab was hazy from the smoke. Onlookers on the La Sal Loop Road watched the fire make runs through pinyon and juniper stands until Sheriff’s Officers cleared the road in the evening.

At 8:10 pm on June 9 Utah Fire Info posted on Twitter, estimating the size of the fire at 120 acres and reporting the fire was “currently moving away from structures,” with an accompanying photo of the billowing smoke column.

Within hours the wind had shifted down-canyon and directed the flames toward the subdivision. A Manti-La Sal National Forest Facebook post at 9:53 pm. reported that although multiple structures were threatened “crews have had to disengage due to the extreme fire behavior.”

As of June 10, the Forest reported that one structure has been destroyed, and others remain threatened. High winds are expected through the evening on Thursday, June 10, prompting both a wind advisory and a red flag warning for the area from the National Weather Service. The Forest Service reports that the fire is still actively burning.

Due to ongoing firefighting activities, extensive and ongoing road closures are in effect: both the La Sal Pass Road west of the Mt. Peale trailhead and the La Sal Loop Road from the Ken’s Lake area to the Geyser Pass turn-off are currently closed. Beaver and Medicine lakes are still accessible, and the Geyser Pass Road can be reached from the north side of the La Sal Loop Road, via Castle Valley. Check updated information before driving in the area. 

The Red Cross is helping those who had to be evacuated. If you are a resident of the Pack Creek area and need assistance, contact the San Juan County Administration building at 435-587-3225 and ask for Natalie Freestone.