Joel Nystrom was having coffee on the morning of Nov. 29—the day after his 69th birthday—when a noise outside alerted him that an RV next to the home was on fire. Nystrom said that when he opened the door of the RV, flames shot out; he tried using a fire extinguisher and buckets of water, but the fire was beyond the point where those efforts could help. 

“It quickly spread to everything,” Nystrom said.

The RV, Nystrom’s kitchen and living area, motorcycles, and a car—all were destroyed. There was also a camper full of construction materials Nystrom had accumulated in his work as a general contractor—he was using them to start building himself a house. That burned too. The cause of the fire is unknown.

“It was very scary,” Nystrom said—he worried that stove fuel tanks on the property might explode and injure someone. Luckily, no explosions happened and no one was hurt. The Moab Valley Fire Department arrived within 15 minutes and sprayed down the flames, extinguishing the fire in about an hour. But, Nystrom said, “There wasn’t much to look at when we got done.”

He’s lived on the property for about 15 years and is currently staying in a small building on another part of the lot. Lorinda Applegate, a friend of Nystrom’s, started a GoFundMe page to help raise donations to support Nystrom in the wake of the fire. The page is called “Moab’s Beloved Local Musician,” and the link is

Nystrom is known for his music in Moab: He plays with an informal group of other local musicians who call themselves jokingly “the band with a name that’s never the same,” and make up a new name each time they gather for a performance. They played at the local talent stage during the Moab Folk Festival several years ago. Nystrom plays guitar, banjo, mandolin and keyboard; he lost six instruments in the fire. A couple of friends have loaned or gifted him guitars since then.

He also lost thousands of dollars in tools, which are essential to his work as a general contractor. About a week after the fire, he was raking through the ashes looking for anything salvageable; he said he’s retrieved some hand tools like wrenches and saw blades. Other tools are reduced to their metal components in a pile of ashes. 

As of Dec. 8, the GoFundMe page had reached over $3,800 of its $10,000 goal.

“Our number one concern is that Joel be able to remain warm, dry and fed during this time of hardship,” Applegate said. “Joel is the kind of person who always goes out of his way to help those less fortunate, always lending a helping hand.”

“I’m doing my best to get over it, but it took away most of my memories and things that I love,” Nystrom said.