TAYLORSVILLE Slade Easterbrook had made it out of his burning house safely with his mother. The two were outside, believing their father would come out the door behind them at any second.
What they didn't know was that John Easterbrook had gone to his bedroom to grab some clothes before venturing out into the frigid night. But once inside the upstairs bedroom, he realized the fire was growing too fast for him to go down the stairs and thick black smoke was quickly filling his room, said Unified Fire Authority Capt. Jay Torgersen.
To save himself, Easterbrook jumped from his second story bedroom window, which was in the rear of the house. His son, Slade, and wife Connie, however, did not know he had gotten out. When too much time had passed, Slade ran back into the house to rescue his father, Torgersen said. His body was later found by firefighters in his parents' upstairs bedroom.
Those dramatic details of Thursday night's fatal fire were released by investigators Friday.
John Easterbrook was taken to LDS Hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation and back and leg injuries he received after he jumped. He was in stable condition Friday afternoon and was expected to be released from the hospital possibly as early as Friday evening, according to a hospital spokesman.
The fire at the Easterbrook home, near 3300 West and 4900 South, started just after 9 p.m. Thursday. Connie and John had just left the living room to retire for the evening while their 25-year-old son, Slade, was going to stay up a little longer and make a fire in their wood-burning fireplace, Torgersen said. Connie was in the kitchen to the north of the living room while John was in the upstairs bedroom to the south.
Not long after, Connie heard Slade yelling and saw large flames coming from the living room.
The cause of the fire was still being investigated Friday afternoon. Torgersen said the fire's origin definitely had something to do with the fire Slade was attending. One possibility being looked at was that accelerants put on an artificial log somehow ignited other parts of the house on fire, Torgersen said.
Michelle Foredice, the Easterbrooks' neighbor who visited John and Connie at the hospital Friday, said Slade had sprayed WD-40 on the artificial log to get it burning faster when the fire got away from him.
John Easterbrook suffered some hypothermia on his feet in addition to his other injuries, Foredice said. Fire investigators were able to dig Connie's purse out of the rubble Friday morning. Foredice said that and the clothes the couple had on are now the only possessions they have.
"She didn't even have any shoes," said Foredice who bought a pair of shoes for Connie Easterbrook before visiting her at the hospital.
But the loss of material possessions means absolutely nothing to the family compared to the loss of their son.
"They were very distraught today when I went to the hospital," she said. "They were so lost. Everything else just doesn't matter. It's so sad."
Foredice's husband tried to help Slade after he went in by grabbing a ladder and climbing onto the garage. But as soon as he broke out a window, "smoke just engulfed all of us," Michelle Foredice said.
Fire quickly roared through the house. When crews arrived the fire was coming out of every window. Crews were quickly forced to fight the fire defensively. The house is considered a total loss.
Officials say the fire is a tragic reminder for all residents that once a fire starts inside house, get out quickly and stay out, Torgersen said.
Neighbors Friday were still in shock and grieving over the loss.
"It really makes me sick. It's a disaster I never thought would happen," said neighbor Keith Hafen.
Vern Farmer, the Easterbrook's home teacher, said Slade will be deeply missed.
"(The Easterbrooks) are a very well respected family. They are highly thought of. They are good people," he said.The Easterbrooks have two other sons who did not live in the house. John Easterbrook had retired once, but came out of retirement to work for the state transportation department, Farmer said.
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