Fire displaces more than 150 at senior center in Salt Lake City

Published: Thursday, May 10 2012 2:28 p.m. MDT

Hector Montjaras is evacuated from the Multi-Ethnic Senior Housing following a fire in Salt Lake City, Thursday, May 10, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A small fire forced the evacuation of more than 150 people from a downtown highrise for seniors Thursday morning.

The fire began around 8 a.m. at the Multi-Ethnic Senior Center near 100 South and 200 West. The more than 150 residents, most with special needs, were evacuated from the 15-floor apartment and displaced for about two hours.

The fire broke out on the 10th floor on the stove in resident Jack Leggroan's apartment. Leggroan was cooking with grease and left his stove unattended when the fire began, the Salt Lake City Fire Department reported.

"The wall set on fire," Leggroan said. "I couldn't get out."

The sprinkler system doused the flames, but firefighters responded and assisted residents in the evacuation, including at least five people confined to wheelchairs.

"All of the sudden, the alarm goes off and I could smell smoke and I was really scared because we're not supposed to use the elevator," said resident Lee Bias.

Water began filling Bias' apartment, which sat one floor directly below where the fire began, and she was unable to exit.

"The water was so deep I didn't dare go through it with my power chair and so I called 911 and (said) I couldn't get out of my apartment," she said.

Although the fire was contained to one apartment, water from the sprinkler made it down to the first floor.

The American Red Cross was on scene to provide food for the residents displaced, and shelter was being provided for four residents.

E-mail: hschwarz@desnews.com

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