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Cigarette butts to blame in 2 fires at Ogden apartment building

Published: Wednesday, June 25 2014 8:35 a.m. MDT

For the the second time in three days, fire roared through a building at the Canyon Cove Apartments complex Wednesday.

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OGDEN — Inappropriately discarded cigarette butts started both fires that ripped through buildings at the Canyon Cove Apartments this week, fire investigators have determined.

Two fires in the past three days left tenants in 46 units homeless and caused an estimated $450,000 in damage.

Fire investigators determined Wednesday afternoon that on two separate occasions, occupants in two first-floor apartments inappropriately discarded their cigarette butts on outdoor decks. Stong winds may have ignited the butts and sparked large fires, said Ogden Deputy Fire Chief Eric Bauman.

The latest fire was Wednesday. About 6:15 a.m., firefighters were called to the complex, 1429 Valley Drive, and arrived to find heavy smoke and flames. Eighteen units were evacuated. Firefighters had to rescue a father, mother and their baby stranded on a third-floor balcony, Bauman said.

"Our fire crews were able to enter, grab the baby, have mom and dad hang on the back of them and get them out of the apartment through the hallway," he said.

The family was treated at the scene for minor smoke inhalation. In all, four people were treated for inhalation, Bauman said. One dog died as a result of the fire. Two other dogs and three cats were rescued by firefighters, Bauman said.

The fire was out by 8 a.m. Bauman said there appeared to be heavy damage on all three floors. Bauman said 28 of the 30 units of the structure were occupied. Five units sustained heavy fire damage, he said. Residents in all 28 units were displaced as of Wednesday. Damage was estimated at $250,000.

On Sunday, fire ripped through another building at the Canyon Cove complex, displacing residents in 18 units and causing an estimated $200,000 in damage.

Bauman said it was "concerning" that two fires that were completely unrelated started in such similar ways just days apart.

"We worry about the residents," he said. "We feel fortunate no one was injured."

The Canyon Cove Apartments have been the subject of controversy and lawsuits in the past due to a lack of fire blocks in the 40-year-old structure.

In 2005, Jacob Eion Leoncini pleaded guilty to murder for intentionally setting a couch on fire with a cigarette. The fire killed one woman.

In 2012, a Utah appellate court ruled the owners Canyon Cove were negligent because they failed to warn residents that the building did not contain fire blocking and because they failed to take any measures to reduce or eliminate fire hazards when they knew about a previous incident.

In 1994, a massive fire caused about $1.5 million in damage to the complex and displaced about 40 tenants. The builders of Canyon Cove were also found negligent in a ruling in 1994.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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