Fire investigators suspect an arsonist was responsible for two blazes in a Salt Lake nursing home Tuesday that sent employees scrambling to evacuate 63 handicapped patients.
Flames erupted in the basement laundry room of Olympus Care Center, 950 E. 3300 South, about 1:30 p.m. Firefighters responded three hours later to a mattress fire in the same building."Some arsonists think we don't reset the sprinkling system when we leave - maybe this one thought the same thing," Lt. Dennis Steadman said.
The building's sprinkling system doused both fires and no injuries were reported. But the second fire could have been "devastating" if employees hadn't evacuated a man from the room with the mattress fire, Steadman said.
The first blaze started when someone dropped a burning cigarette down a laundry chute and ignited clothing in a basket.
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Heavy smoke filled the building and prevented firefighters from immediately locating the room. Damage was estimated at $5,000.
Salt Lake County homicide detectives are questioning residents and employees of the care center and will probably seek attempted homicide charges if a suspect is arrested, Steadman said.
Meanwhile, Olympus Care officials called in extra staff members Tuesday night to stand in the building's hallways on a "fire watch."