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WVC man, pets escape WVC apartment fire thanks to sprinklers

Published: Monday, June 20 2011 7:00 p.m. MDT

l-r: Sam Nigh and Travis Anderson talk with a fire official following a fire at the Village at Rivers Edge apartments in West Valley City, Monday, June 20, 2011.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

WEST VALLEY CITY — An apartment grease fire led to the evacuation of six apartments and a mild burn injury to the resident, but all the attention went to the pets that were evacuated as well — a 14-foot Burmese Python, named Jake, and a Colombian Boa constrictor, named Diamond. 

While cooking fish for dinner, Travis Anderson, 28, a resident of the Village at Rivers Edge apartments, 3444 S. 1264 West, splashed grease that caught on fire. He jumped back from the stove and hit his hand on the pan, which then fell to the floor and burst into flames.

"It just exploded," he said.

His arm lightly bandaged, Anderson said he quickly ran out the door, but later returned to evacuate his two snakes, which remained confined to a glass cage, and two big dogs that he said cowered in the corner of the room during the incident.

Although the fire caused a lot of smoke, it was quickly extinguished by the apartment's fire sprinkler system, said West Valley City Fire Marshall Bob Fitzgerald.

From emergency radio reports, he said it sounded like people were trapped by the blaze, but the first crew to arrive on the scene saw lots of water coming down the apartment stairs and knew the sprinklers had done their job.

"That's always a good sign," Fitzgerald said. "It's a great case in point of how valuable (sprinklers) are."

Steve Noack, who lives in one of the basement apartments, was getting ready to go golfing when he heard a "low-echo boom" coming from the main hallway of the building. He later figured that noise was coming from water hitting the ground.

"I just thought someone had blown something up," he said. Noack quickly placed towels at the bottom of the door jams, to prevent water from coming in his unit. He figures he avoided a bit of damage to the apartment, but said he was glad it wasn't a worse situation.

Fitzgerald estimated about $15,000 in damages to the apartment where the fire started, mostly from water. Not all apartment buildings are required to install such intricate sprinkler systems, he said, but because this complex has three- and four-story buildings, it was required to for zoning purposes.

"We were lucky because the whole system worked exactly how it was supposed to," he said, adding that the crew was glad the large snakes were in cages that were easily removed.

E-mail: lbrubaker@desnews.com, wleonard@desnews.com

Twitter: wendyleonards

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