3 house fires in 1 night cause hundreds of thousands in damage

By Katie McKellar

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, July 24 2013 5:14 p.m. MDT

Three homes in Salt Lake County caught fire Tuesday evening, resulting in damages of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Three homes in Salt Lake County caught fire Tuesday evening, resulting in damages of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Within minutes of each other, fire officials received 911 calls reporting two separate fires at 5:30 p.m: one in West Valley City and one in Riverton. Close to 8 p.m., another fire was reported in Kearns.

West Valley City firefighters arrived about 5:35 p.m. to find flames billowing out of a front bedroom window near 6100 W. Terrace Ridge Drive, said West Valley Fire Battalion Chief Bob Fitzgerald.

Firefighters battled the two-alarm fire, which had spread into the attic, from the outside before transitioning to the interior to fully extinguish the flames.

No one was home at the time of the fire, and no one was injured. However, the flame’s heat melted the side paneling of a neighboring house, and by the time the fire was extinguished, it had caused between $80,000 and $100,000 worth of damage, Fitzgerald said.

“We’re grateful it was not a super windy day,” he said. “If that would have been the case, we would have had a real problem on our hands.”

Fitzgerald said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Almost simultaneously, Unified Fire Authority firefighters arrived at a Riverton home near 2589 W. 12340 South where flames and smoke were coming out the back of the home.

Neighbor Michael Johnson said his wife called 911 when she saw smoke “blooming” up from the house.

Unified Fire Capt. Clint Mecham said firefighters initially attempted to extinguish the flames from the interior, but the fire had advanced enough that smoke conditions forced them to attack from the outside.

Mecham said no one was inside the house, and not even the dogs in the back yard suffered any injuries. However, the fire caused the roof to collapse and an estimated $150,000 to $175,000 worth of damage.

A mother and 11 children were displaced from their home, Mecham said.

“They’re a great family and you hate to see anything like this happen to them,” Johnson said.

Mecham said the cause of the Riverton home fire is under investigation as well.

A few hours later, about 8 p.m., Unified fire officials received another call reporting a tree had caught on fire in the front yard of a home in Kearns near 5939 S. Kyle Drive.

Mecham said firefighters arrived to find the fire had transitioned from the small tree up into the attic space of the home. Crews searched the home to make sure no one was left inside, and began attacking the fire and pulling away the ceiling to stop further damage.

Four adults and two children were displaced from their home, but no one suffered injuries, Mecham said. The fire caused roughly $50,000 worth of damage.

Mecham said the transition of fire from the tree to the house is a prime example of how vegetation in close proximity to homes can be hazardous in wildfire situations.

“Even though you’re not in the urban interface area, if you’ve got that kind of landscaping, and for some reason it catches fire, it can transition into your home very, very easily,” he said.

Mecham said fire officials are still investigating how the small evergreen tree caught fire.

Email: kmckellar@deseretnews.com

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