Grand County sheriff’s deputies had just hustled Shane Tangren away from a raging wildfire Tuesday night in Moab when he slipped over to an empty spot about a block away and watched the flames consume the house where he’d lived for nearly four decades.
“I sat there and watched it burn to the ground,” Tangren said. “Everything — photographs, birth certificates, memories — it’s all gone. My first car — that was a 1970 [Pontiac] GTO. Up in flames. I bought it when I was 15.”
Tangren’s home was one of eight destroyed in Tuesday’s wildfire, which also took out two garages and a shop, said Moab Police Chief Jim Winder.
“Because of the dry conditions and winds, it just exploded,” Winder said.
Kevin Sheets joined 30 to 40 other Moab residents who initially tried to dig ditches to contain the blaze and collect water from Pack Creek, where the fire began in a wooded area.
“I just went to a friend’s house and just made sure his house was OK,” Sheets said. “Then we saw [the fire at] another friend’s house. We put the fire out 15 feet away from her house. ... There were people standing in the creek, scooping 5-gallon buckets of water and handing them up like an old fire bucket line.”
But wind fanned the flames, already fueled by deadfall and dry wood along the creek bed, toward a “fairly densely packed residential area.”
Tangren, 55, said he pulled up to his driveway after work about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to find the fire blazing across the creek from his house. He said he was trying to wet down his home on Wasatch Avenue when the wind shifted and blew the flames directly at the house where he had lived since his dad bought it when Tangren was 16.
“There was nothing you could do,” he said. Tangren was living there with his 12-year-old daughter Emma. She’s staying with Tangren’s older daughter, who also grew up in the house.
Tangren said he evacuated the neighborhood and went to a thrift shop to buy a pair of shorts and a shirt — which, along with his pickup truck, are now his only possessions. In a daze late Tuesday, less than two hours after the fire, he discussed plans to go buy a bar of soap and some socks. He said he had a motel room but wasn’t sure he would stay there tonight.
“I don’t know what I’m doing,” he said. “I’m in a state of shock.”
About 100 residents were evacuated from the neighborhood, near Mill Creek Drive and Holyoak Lane.
Evacuees were being directed to two evacuation centers: one at the Gravel Pit Lanes bowling alley, 1078 Mill Creek Drive, and the other at Grand Center, 182 N. 500 West.
Fairfield Inn & Suites, 1863 N. U.S. Highway 191, and Gonzo Inn, at 100 W. 200 South, also were accepting evacuees.
“Our hearts go out to you,” Gonzo Inn staff wrote in a Facebook post. “If anyone is dislocated by this tragedy, please contact us. ... We will have coffee, phone lines and wifi available.”
A couple of evacuees had made reservations as of about 8 p.m., said Naomi Renn, manager of the inn.
The fire caused power outages throughout Moab, police said. At one point, there were 1,387 customers without power in Moab City and another 711 without power in neighborhoods near town, according to Rocky Mountain Power’s website. Power has since been restored.
Moab Regional Hospital was providing oxygen tanks for patients “who are on oxygen and impacted by the power outage,” Moab city officials wrote.
As of 8:10 p.m., the fire was about 75 percent controlled, Moab city officials wrote on social media. By 9:30 p.m., Winder said the fire had been contained.
“No injuries other than responders suffering smoke inhalation,” Moab city officials wrote.
The Tribune will provide further details as they become available.