With little to no rain for the past six weeks and the hot and dry conditions that have existed in the area this week, the spring open burn period has probably come to an end. Late last week, Grand County Fire Warden Bruce Jenkins closed the burn window until at least Wednesday of this week but later said that he probably won’t open it back up at all. The burn window usually extends until May 31 but will occasionally close early because of these kinds of weather conditions.
The area was under a red flag (fire weather) warning for several days this week. Issued by the National Weather Service to firefighters and land management agencies, the warning means conditions are ideal for wildland fire combustion and rapid spread of a fire. Some agencies will use this information to alter their staffing and equipment resources to accommodate the forecast risk. For the Castle Valley Fire Department, there is not much to alter except our lives to be more accommodating and available when the fire call comes.
Even if the fire warden lifted the suspension and allowed open burning for the rest of the month, Castle Valley probably wouldn’t be allowed to burn anyway. A town ordinance stipulates that when the fire danger sign at the entrance to Castle Valley is posted at high or above, no open burning is allowed. Recently, the fire danger jumped to high and nearly to very high, so it is unlikely that the fire danger will come back down to moderate anytime soon.
In the meantime the Castle Valley Fire Department recently updated equipment in Fire Station 2 by installing an air system to all of the large engines that have air brakes. The new air system is installed to each of the engines from an air compressor to keep the air pressure up in the brake systems. When the air pressure bleeds down after hours or days of inactivity, it requires running the engine until the air reached enough pressure to release the brake and move the engine. The result will make the response time much faster in the event of an emergency.
In another development, the department set up a command center at the town hall Monday evening at about 7:45 p.m., when it was realized that there was no phone, internet or 911 service.
When department members contacted the Grand County Sheriff’s dispatch office by radio to ask them to notify Frontier Communications about the problem, it was realized that the outage involved more than Castle Valley. All of Grand County and San Juan County was also experiencing phone problems and no 911 service. The Sheriff’s department was busy with multiple vehicle accidents around this time but, as a precaution, they also dispatched deputies to be visible and cruise Spanish Valley, Highway 128 and north of Moab to be available in the event of an emergency. Emergency 911 calls were routed through Price. The outage stretched into Arizona.
Fire department members were stationed at the Castle Valley command until about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday when service was restored.
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It is sad to report our longtime neighbor and friend, Rick Fullam, passed away last Saturday, May 9 after a long battle with esophageal cancer. A professional pyrotechnician by trade, Fullam was the man behind the magic for many of Moab’s Independence Day fireworks shows. He started to explore with the chemistry of fireworks at the age of 10 in his home state of Michigan and made it a career for over 30 years before retiring several years ago.
In addition to providing exciting fireworks shows around the West, he entertained Castle Valley folks for years with a professional fireworks display every New Year’s precisely at midnight. He and the late Bill Riggs, along with other residents, worked all day Dec. 31 to assemble the fireworks and shoot them off to usher in the new year. They are both gone now, but their memories will live on in the hearts of those who witnessed the artistry of his magic.