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Fire causes $300K in damage to USU building in St. George

Published: Sunday, July 5 2015 9:18 a.m. MDT

Smoke and fire coming from the Utah State University Washington County Extension in St. George on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (Mikala Hansen) Smoke and fire coming from the Utah State University Washington County Extension in St. George on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (Mikala Hansen)

ST GEORGE — Fire crews battled a blaze at the Utah State University extension building Wednesday that caused $300,000 in damage.

Around 9 a.m., firefighters responded to flames and smoke that were seen coming from the USU Washington County Extension in St. George, 44 N. 100 East.

Employees at the building first detected a problem when the building's lights shut off. When they went to check the circuit breakers, employees saw flames and smoke coming from a ceiling vent in the women's bathroom, USU staff assistant Laurie Terry said.

Employees tried to put the fire out with an extinguisher and were briefly successful, but the flames in the ventilation area returned quickly, according to St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker.

Three people were in the building when the fire was found. All three made it out without getting hurt.

Smoke and flames billow from the Utah State University Washington County Extension in St. George on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (Mikala Hansen) Smoke and flames billow from the Utah State University Washington County Extension in St. George on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (Mikala Hansen)

Forty-five firefighters fought the blaze for two hours before the flames were reduced to hot spots, Stoker said. At first crews fought the fire from inside the building, but had to retreat outside once the roof began to cave in.

Investigators do not yet know what caused the blaze, although staff members said it looks like an electrical fire. They estimated damages at $300,000 to the building and materials inside.

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