Arson is being investigated as the possible cause of two separate house fires in Salt Lake City Wednesday night.
One fire destroyed the garage of a vacant house at 112 N. Sixth West where fire officials believe transients had been living. The other destroyed a home at 254 W. Fourth North and started while people were inside asleep.Merrill and Deloria Eschler said they were awakened by the sound of breaking glass and the smell of smoke. Once they realized the house was on fire they ran next door and called the fire department.
"We just barely made it out," said Deloria Eschler.
The Eschler's 15-year-old son was not at home at the time. The fire started near his bedroom, Merrill Eschler said.
Battalion Chief LaMont Epperson said flames had engulfed the entire house and were coming out of the windows when firefighters arrived.
"Our immediate concern was to keep the blaze from spreading to surrounding structures," said Epperson.
Fire officials said the cause of the blaze, which took firefighters about one hour to control, is unknown but is considered suspicious. Epperson said the fire caused about $50,000 damage and rendered the home a total loss.
The Eschlers said they have been harassed by a person for several months. They said someone started a fire in their kitchen three months ago, but they extinguished the blaze before it did any much damage.
Epperson said the abandoned house suffered about $1,000 damage when fire destroyed the adjacent garage.
"The probable cause is transients. We could see where they'd been staying inside the home and shed." Epperson said officials do not know whether the fire was arson or whether a cooking or warming fire started by vagrants got out of control.