James Benally stood outside his sister's blackened, fire-gutted apartment in only his stocking feet Thursday evening. His boots were somewhere among the ashes.
He had been watching a vampire video next door only minutes earlier when his sister, Loretta, ran in saying her apartment was on fire. Eddie Benally, 26, immediately ran to the apartment's back bedroom and rescued a 11/2-year-old boy, Vester, from the flames. Firefighters believe the fire began in that bedroom.Loretta, the mother of the family, said she was cooking dinner about 5 p.m. in the kitchen of her basement apartment at 255 S. Sixth East when one of her youngest children noticed flames in the back bedroom. Loretta said a small lamp sitting on the floor next to the bed may have started the blaze.
A neighbor attempted to extinguish the flames with a garden hose while the family waited for firefighters to arrive.
The family had previously been living in a homeless shelter since moving to Utah from Arizona. They moved into the apartment three months ago.
Their apartment was "completely gutted by fire," according to Salt Lake Fire Battalion Chief Gordon Nicholl. No one was injured in the fire, with the exception of a badly singed kitten, which firefighters rescued.
"I lost some clothes, my boots and some papers," said James.
"When we arrived there was smoke and flames billowing out of the apartment," said Nicholl. "It is very fortunate everybody got out safely."
Nicholl estimated the damage to the apartment at $50,000 and said two other apartments were damaged by smoke. The fire could have spread rapidly to other apartments if firefighters had not acted so quickly, he said. The fire was under control within 10 minutes.
Because of the outside temperatures and heat inside the apartment, Nicholl said firefighters "took a heck of a beating."