Blazes kept Moab’s volunteer firefighters busy on the 4th

An ATV and firetruck sit in the garage of the Moab Valley Fire Department’s primary station, on 100 East. Photo by Carter Pape

Independence Day 2019 was “coordinated chaos” for the Moab Valley Fire Department, according to its chief T.J. Brewer.

Due to the high volume of fires, there were a few times late in the day, after what had already been hours at fire scenes for some volunteers, that all of the area’s firefighters were tapped out.

Nearly all of the fires on July 4 were caused by fireworks; Brewer said that many of them were legal under state and local codes, but some of them, particularly those that could be heard and seen shooting into the sky throughout the afternoon and evening, were not.

The county’s fireworks show, which went off from near Lion’s Back on Sand Flats Road, also caused a few small fires that kept the road closed following the evening show.

The number of incidents was “about exactly” what Brewer expected going into Independence Day. “You always have fire on the Fourth,” Brewer said.

None of the fires claimed any lives; there were injuries such as minor burns suffered by some, including civilians who were attempting to put out a fire.

Brewer said that the Moab Valley Fire Department, which relies on roughly 30 volunteers and fewer than 10 full-time staff, is greatly enabled to be “expedient” in its response to fires in no small part thanks to its volunteer staff. He cites the department’s volunteers as a major boon for the entire valley. “Without them, it would be a different story,” Brewer said.