WEST VALLEY CITY A three-alarm blaze investigators believe started as a brush fire caused damage to at least five properties here this afternoon as strong winds pushed the flames into several structures.
The fire started in a field near 5900 West near 4400 South at about 12:45 p.m. Residents said there was a work crew in a tractor cutting down the high weeds, ironically, to do fire mitigation control.
"This should have been done awhile ago," said resident Christin Wadman, who lost a storage shed full of her boyfriend's equipment for a startup computer business.
Two children 8 and 10 were the only ones home in Wadman's house when the fire started. They got out safely and called her.
Paula Kennedy had just arrived home for lunch and saw the workers cutting the grass. Moments later she could smell smoke. She looked out the back door in time to see a worker with a panicked look on his face jump from the tractor and run.
"I could see the smoke was so bad," she said. Strong winds from the south quickly pushed the fire north and west into a wooden fence that separates a half dozen homes from the field.
Kennedy's house was the first to catch fire. Her garage had ATVs, a trailer and a boat inside.
"You're just standing out there watching your life burn," she said. The garage and trailer were heavily damaged by the fire. West Valley's assistant fire chief, Kris Romijn, estimated the dollar loss there to be about $40,000. The boat escaped serious damage.
One of Kennedy's neighbors helped her evacuate by knocking through the back fence and carrying her two dogs to safety. The pair were hiding under the deck and had refused to move.
Up to 10 homes were evacuated as a precaution, Romijn said. Three houses from the Kennedys, the flames reached another house. The exterior of the house caught fire, with flames rising into the attic. Early damage estimates to that property are at $80,000, Romijn said.
As of this afternoon, Romijn said investigators are still looking at whether the work crew was at fault for starting the fire.
Residents, meanwhile, say they are angry something like this even happened."Somebody's going to pay" for property damage, Kennedy said.