John Flahie
Public Information Officer

August 14, 2003


Moab Volunteer Firefighter and Sheriff’s Deputy Steve White is always looking for a handout. Not for himself, of course. White seeks funds for Utah charities, especially those that help children. At this year’s 4th of July Celebration, Steve organized a Fire Truck Pull Contest where participants had to move Moab’s largest fire engine by human power alone. Teams from local businesses and government agencies entered the contest and paid $50 each for the privilege. The contest raised $500 that was donated to Utah Special Olympics and the University of Utah Burn Center. “I want to thank all the contestants for their generous donations,” White said. Steve and Moab Fire Chief Corky Brewer met with Marie McGann, representative of the Utah State Firemen’s Association Ladies Auxiliary, to pass funds on to the burn center. “The burn center is the greatest beneficiary of our organization. The Ladies Auxiliary collects money all year and makes a very large donation to the burn center programs each June. I will be very proud to present this Moab donation. Thanks to Steve and the caring citizens of Moab, this money will go a long way to help burn victims,” McGann said. White was later heard saying “I have a great idea for the next 4th of July…”

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Moab Fire Chief Corky Brewer and Firefighter Steve White present a $250 donation for the University of Utah Burn Center to representative Marie McGann of the Utah State Firemen’s Association Ladies Auxiliary. PHOTO CREDIT: MOAB FIRE DEPARTMENT


July 28, 2003


A devastating structure fire burned an East Moab home so severely that it is no longer habitable. Moab Fire Department was dispatched to “an electrical fire in the walls” at 1370 Murphy Lane at 4:00 PM Monday, July 28, 2003. Fire Chief Corky Brewer arrived four minutes later and reported a heavy smoke condition in the roof area of a partly subterranean house. The occupant of the residence was home at the time but escaped unharmed along with several pets. Firefighters were forced to remove sections of the exterior roof as well as the interior ceiling in three rooms to gain access to the fire that had spread to virtually all of the attic space. A large portion of one living room wall was also removed. Fortunately, firefighters were able to remove furniture from the living room, cover and protect items including a computer and business documents in a home office, and limit fire effects to water and smoke damage only in the majority of the house. The roof structure itself, however, was damaged beyond repair. Grand County Sheriff’s Office and Moab Fire Department investigators determined that the apparent cause of the fire was an electrical arc in an air conditioner switch that was built into the living room wall. “ An electrical arc can generate temperatures of 2000 to 7000 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Chief Brewer. Officials estimated that $40,000 damage had occurred.


July 21, 2003


A ferocious fire destroyed a two-story detached garage and its contents at a South Moab home Monday, July 21, 2003. Moab Fire Department was dispatched to a structure fire at 1575 Old Mail Trail Road at 5:18PM. The first fire engine arrived six minutes later to find the building fully engulfed by the blaze. Several factors combined to hamper firefighting efforts including a steep, narrow, winding access road, a long and narrow driveway, and the absence of fire hydrants in the area. First arriving units reported that the fire was impinging on a 500-gallon propane tank that was situated against one wall of the building and had ignited a brush fire in the surrounding area. While firefighters played a 3” hose stream on the propane tank to cool it, other firefighters directed their hoses on the wood-shake shingles of the adjacent house from both the ground and on the roof. The only damage to the house was an approximately 4 square foot area of shingles that ignited and a window that cracked when the cool water was directed onto its extremely hot surface. The garage itself, 2 jeeps, a boat and trailer, 3 motorcycles, and 2 small trailers were destroyed, as were all other contents of the building. Estimated property loss approached $100,000.00. There were no injuries. Fire Department officials and Grand County Sheriff’s Deputies called for investigative assistance from the Utah State Fire Marshal’s Office while at the scene Monday night. “The high dollar values lost and the complete destruction of the building caused us to call in the experts to help determine the cause of the fire,” said Sheriff’s Investigator Steve White. Utah State Fire Marshal’s Deputy Brent Halladay arrived on the scene Tuesday morning and determined that a rag and glove used in a wood staining project by the property owner had apparently ignited in a trash can some 18 hours after being disposed of. Deputy Fire Marshal Halladay said that the stain was linseed oil based. Apparently, the items combusted in the 100 degree-plus heat in the trash can outside the structure. A window adjacent to the trash can broke from radiant heat during the initial stage and allowed the fire to enter the structure. Being a garage, there were numerous gasoline cans, motor oil containers, fuel in vehicle tanks and other highly flammable products in the building that all served to accelerate the fire. “The fire department never had a chance with this one,” said Deputy Fire Marshal Halladay.


June 16, 2003


The Utah State Firemen’s Association at its convention in Ogden last week honored Moab Firefighter Archie Walker with the 2003 Meritorious Community Service Award given only to volunteer firefighters. Walker, a Grand County Sheriff’s Deputy, emergency medical technician, and 18-year veteran volunteer of the Moab Fire Department, was recognized for his visionary anti-drunk driving campaign aimed at high school students. Walker’s program, “Anylands Circle” has gained attention statewide since its inception in 1996. The program features a true-to-life demonstration of the consequences of drunk driving that depicts a car crash involving students. All of the Moab and Grand County emergency services have been involved with the scenarios that are played out each year during the week prior to the Junior Prom. Students are given a harsh, up-close look at what both victims and rescuers experience during a tragic, preventable accident. The theme is reinforced with messages all during prom week, even during the dance when the disc jockey broadcasts recorded prevention dialogue over the sound system. Walker’s efforts have been funded by the Utah Health Department and the Utah Highway Safety Office as well as Moab businesses over the years and rely on volunteer labor and donations of time and equipment from local emergency authorities. The program has produced professional quality videotapes for distribution to other communities. “While it is difficult to gauge the success of a prevention program, these emergency workers consider the program to be hugely successful if one kid abstains from drinking and driving”, Walker wrote recently in a letter to the editor of Moab’s Times-Independent newspaper. “It is an honor for me to work with these people who have a common goal: to make our community a better place to live.”


June 16, 2003


Moab Firefighter Terry McGann was elected to the office of 5-Year Trustee for the Utah State Firemen’s Association at their convention in Ogden last week. Organized in 1908, the Association represents more than 3000 Utah firefighters from across the state with its programs including support for training, education, fire prevention, law and legislative action, building and fire codes, and benefits for its members. The Utah State Firemen’s Association was integral in the formation of the Utah Fire and Rescue Academy and the Utah State Fire Marshal’s Office. The Association financially supports the University of Utah Burn Center and other charities. McGann, a 21-year veteran volunteer for the Moab Fire Department, served the Association in 1999 as Sergeant-At-Arms and was the Convention Chairman for the event held in Moab that year that attracted more than 700 Utah firefighters and their spouses to the community. He marked 20 years of Association membership last summer. Terry is employed as a technician by Nelson’s Heating and Refrigeration. McGann and his wife, Marie, enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, and motorcycling. Terry has two daughters, Molly, 19 and Kelly, 17. Two of Terry’s brothers, Patrick and James, also serve as volunteer firefighters with Moab Fire Department. Terry was born in Hammond, Indiana and moved to Moab 22 years ago. “I became a volunteer firefighter to be part of this community,” McGann wrote recently in his Member Biography. “Volunteer service makes me feel useful and that is a good feeling.” Terry McGann is currently posted as a Battalion Chief for the Moab Fire Department. “Terry’s election is important to firefighters throughout the entire southeast part of Utah,” Moab Fire Chief Corky Brewer said. “He is the only current representative for our area in the Association’s Officer ranks and he knows what issues face rural firefighters in this region.” McGann follows in the footsteps of Moab’s Assistant Fire Chief, Monte Curtis, who held all of the offices in the Utah State Firemen’s Association culminating with his service as President of the organization in 1999. Moab Fire Department has 100% membership in the Association.


May 28, 2003


A brush fire of approximately one-half acre Tuesday, May 27, 2003 had 25 Moab Fire Department personnel and 10 Federal firefighters in a wooded residential area in the 1700 block of Spanish Valley Drive protecting 3 homes and other property. The cause of the fire is under investigation by Moab Fire Department and Grand County Sheriff’s investigators. Firefighters were called to the scene at 3:43PM. The first fire engines arrived 4 minutes later to find an intense fire in brush and trees threatening 3 adjacent mobile homes. Residents in the area at the time escaped without harm and the only building damaged was a shed although firefighters noted that mini-blinds inside one of the homes melted due to radiant heat. As firefighters gained control of the fire, they noticed acrid, yellow smoke rising from an area containing several 55-gallon drums and other assorted containers. As firefighters began to investigate that situation, one of the drums began issuing a fluorescent orange colored smoke. Fire Chief Corky Brewer ordered all firefighters out of the vicinity and asked Sheriff’s Deputies to close several roads in the area and evacuate neighborhoods along Spanish Valley Drive, Murphy Lane, and Plateau Circle. Grand County Emergency Manager Doug Squire declared a Hazardous Materials emergency and requested assistance from the Utah Highway Patrol’s Hazardous Materials Team. While evacuations and assessments of the scene were being conducted, fire service personnel were relocated to a warehouse parking lot about a quarter of a mile away. A command post was established there and low-level decontamination of firefighters was conducted. Grand County Emergency Medical Service personnel were called to perform medical evaluations on approximately 20 firefighters who complained of irritated eyes and throats, headaches, and a tingling sensation on their lips. Several were administered oxygen and most had their eyes flushed with tap water, but none required any further treatment. The owner of the property was contacted and told officials that he thought the substance producing the orange smoke was “sodium bromate”, a chemical used in mining applications. Absolute identification of the substance was not immediately confirmed. Officials said that sodium bromate is an irritant, but that it is not a “regulated” material and they expect no adverse health or environmental effects from the release. Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Scott Robertson, a Hazardous Materials Technician, traveled from Green River, Utah to advise local officials about how to terminate the incident. Trooper Robertson supervised the re-packaging of the substance into a special “over pack” drum that was brought in from a regional cache of hazardous materials emergency supplies stored in Monticello. The fire was mopped-up and the property released to its owner at 7:00PM although firefighters were still checking the area for hot spots at midnight. Grand County Emergency Manager Doug Squire said that Health Department officials had been notified of the incident. “Once again, our training paid off,” said Chief Brewer, referring to an 18-month-long course in Hazardous Materials Operations just completed by the Moab Fire Department. Firefighters passed their final skills test conducted by the Utah Fire & Rescue Academy on May 16 and 17, 2003.


April 15, 2003


The second major wildfire in as many weeks threatened residential, commercial, and hospitality properties as well as petroleum and electric utility infrastructure near Moab on Friday, April 11, 2003. At 3:33 PM, a power blackout had firefighters opening electrically operated overhead doors at Moab Fire Station #1 by hand when 911 dispatchers, working by emergency generator power at the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, broadcast an alarm for a large brush fire that had erupted adjacent to the Colorado River Bridge on US Highway 191 just north of the Moab City Limits. Thirty three Moab Fire Department personnel with seven fire engines, two 3000-gallon water tenders, and a support truck arrived to find an intense wind-driven crown fire burning in trees and brush in an area bordered by the bridge to the east, a boat channel branching off of the river to the north, a Williams Energy pipeline right-of-way to the west and a dirt service road to the south. The Fire Department’s personnel deployed their pumpers for structure protection on both shores of the river while their light brush fire engines and water tenders initiated a pump-and-roll attack on the fire’s south flank. “Our strategy was to contain the fire along the river, keep it from jumping into the sloughs where it could have made a run at the town, and pinch it off downstream where there are no houses and other buildings. Our plan worked,” Moab Fire Chief Corky Brewer said. The fire, including a highly successful fuel reducing burn-out operation on an island between the boat channel and the river, consumed approximately 50 acres of brush and trees. Other than the loss of wildlife habitat and power lines, no direct property damage resulted from the fire.

Personnel, supplies, and equipment from Moab Fire Department, Moab Police Department, Grand County Sheriff’s Office, Grand County Search & Rescue, Grand County Emergency Medical Service, Grand County Road Department, Utah Highway Patrol, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, the Moab and Monticello Districts of the Manti-LaSal National Forest, the Moab District of the Bureau of Land Management, and Grand and San Juan Counties’ Fire Warden from the Division of State Lands, Forestry and Fire Control all responded to the incident. “I want to point out the fantastic job done by the Sheriff’s dispatchers and jail staff who, under tough conditions on generator power, managed our fire ground communications and other concurrent emergency radio traffic, got us up-to-the-minute information from the National Weather Service, fielded a large volume of calls from the public, and still found the resources to put together sack lunches for firefighters out on the line,” Brewer said. “The expertise of the Federal firefighters was invaluable. Without their advice, we would have had a much tougher time getting a handle on this fire.” In addition to emergency workers, representatives from Moab City, Grand County, Moab Valley Fire Protection District, the State of Utah, Utah Power and Light, Williams Energy, The Nature Conservancy, and the Portal RV Park were all on the scene to advise commanders regarding their respective equipment and property. Moab businesses pitched in; Maverick Country Store donated beverages and ice for workers, Harrison’s Towing donated the use of a tractor-trailer loaded with water for use on the fire, and a great number of employers did without their workers who are also volunteer firefighters, EMTs, and search and rescue personnel. “I feel that, as a community, we should all thank those employers who let folks go to serve the community in times of distress. Most of all, we should thank the families of volunteer emergency workers who sat at home in the dark while their loved ones worked for free for 8 hours,” Brewer said. Chief Brewer relinquished command of the incident to State and Federal firefighters at 11:00 PM Friday night. Those personnel patrolled and mopped-up the site over the weekend and firefighters were still extinguishing hot spots as late as Monday afternoon.

While the exact cause of the fire is still under investigation, Chief Brewer said that the power outage and fire were related. “I can’t stress enough the extreme nature of this fire’s behavior. As we saw in the fire downtown at the end of March, the vegetation along the river has absolutely no moisture in it. We have got to be extremely careful in these areas and observe safety rules to the maximum extent to minimize the potential for devastating fires. Long-range forecasts show no recovery for the drought conditions we are facing,” Brewer said.

“With the high volume of traffic we’ll be seeing in the next few weeks in and around these areas laden with dead, dry fuels, awareness of the situation is what will keep us from having bad fires. People have got to watch the wind, keep campfires small, and extinguish them properly before going to sleep or breaking camp.” Regarding power outages and emergency information, Chief Brewer offered these tips: “Keep a portable AM/FM radio and flashlights with extra batteries for each handy. An alternative is to listen to the radio in your car for emergency information. The new Weather Radio alert system will be used if an evacuation is needed or to broadcast messages of an emergency nature but we can’t use that system to give out routine information like what time the lights will come back on. The best bet is to listen to commercial broadcasters for updates on both emergency and non-emergency news.”


February 10, 2003


Moab Fire Department was dispatched to assist Grand County Emergency Medical Service with a chainsaw accident at 10:09 AM on Monday, February 10, 2003 at a downtown Moab residence. The Fire Department’s “Rescue 1”, a specialized vehicle that carries technical rescue tools and equipment as well as emergency medical supplies and equipment arrived on the scene 2 minutes later. The rescue crew found an adult male approximately 20 feet up in a tree that he had been trimming with the chainsaw. The man had a severe and potentially life-threatening wound to his left wrist and was unable to climb down from the tree. The man’s helper was also in the tree. Fire Department personnel called for “Engine 2”, the Department’s newest apparatus. The truck is known as a “Quint” in the fire service because it performs 5 jobs: it is a pumper truck, it has an aerial water stream, has an aerial ladder, carries a full complement of ground ladders and carries large diameter hose for securing water supplies. The Quint’s crew deployed its 75 – foot aerial ladder with two firefighters on it to the exact spot where the man was harnessed to the tree while another firefighter attended to the man from an extension ladder set against the tree. The man stepped from the tree to the aerial ladder where his harness was removed by firefighters and the helper. Once the man was aboard the aerial, it was rotated to within 10 feet of a waiting ambulance and just 5 feet from the ground where police officers and EMTs assisted the man off of the aerial device and directly onto the ambulance’s gurney. This incident marks the first rescue with the aerial device in an emergency. “I believe this apparatus is an essential piece of our overall response plan. This rescue demonstrates that the truck is very versatile and will be priceless to the public and firefighters alike,” said Fire Chief Corky Brewer.

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