Fire caused extensive damage to a single-family residence on Sunday, Dec. 23, when a blaze sparked near the gas valve on a water heater, Moab Valley Fire Protection Division Chief Corky Brewer said.
It happened at 8:07 p.m. at No. 6 Orchard Way in Hecla subdivision on Moab’s east side. The home is owned by Craig Barney.
“The attic was fully involved when we arrived,” Brewer said.
Three engines, a ladder truck and 25 firefighters responded, extinguishing the blaze and completing all other tasks by 9:52 p.m.
Brewer said it is unknown whether the house is a total loss. He said the insurance company will make that determination.
However, Barney was optimistic Friday morning as a crew sent by his insurance company loaded furniture and clothing into a truck to be taken to Price, where it will be put into a heated warehouse and cleaned of smoke damage.
“I’m not an estimator,” Barney said, “but I think it’s salvageable.”
He said most of the ceiling is saturated with water and with smoke, and all the insulation must be removed from the ceiling. Most of the interior walls in the front portion of the house must be removed because of water damage, Barney added.
“The biggest damage is right above the hot water heater,” he said. “It burned right through the metal roof. The rafters were all burned through.”
Barney was eating dinner at his daughter’s house in Moab when the fire broke out. His 10-year-old granddaughter from Grand Junction, Colo., was at the dinner, too. Barney brought her home after the meal, intending for the girl to stay overnight.
“It could have been a lot worse,” he said, referring to the fire possibly occurring while both slept. The girl spent the night with Barney’s daughter while he stayed at the fire site most of the night.
Chief Brewer said the fact that Barney apparently arrived home soon after the fire started helped reduce damage significantly.
“It’s hard to say whether it was [started] because of the cold weather,” the chief said.
Brewer credited his volunteer crew with a fast response and quick work.
“That was a damn good save they made,” he said.
It was only by coincidence that Barney was in town when the blaze broke out. He had been in Mexico on vacation, headed for Nicaragua, when he was alerted that he was the victim of identify theft and returned to Moab. He got back Dec. 22, one day before the fire.
“If I hadn’t been here, the house would have been gone,” Barney said.
Despite the water and smoke damage, he said nothing of a personal nature was lost in the fire. Barney is temporarily staying with friends across the street from his house, although the insurance company will provide an apartment soon, he said.
The fire comes after the 63-year-old man suffered other losses in the recent past. His father died less than a year ago and his wife died last May, he said.
Still, Barney has a positive attitude.
“I don’t need anything,” he said. “I’ve been offered 20 beds and I don’t know how many people have offered dinner. It’s a great community, and there are many people worse off than me.”