A flash fire Saturday gutted a 22-unit Midvale apartment building, leaving 30 people homeless but injuring no one, while another blaze caused $50,000 damage to a midtown Salt Lake apartment building, forcing the evacuation of its residents, many of them elderly or blind.
One blaze broke out in the ceiling of an upper level unit at Midvale's Inglenook Apartments, 7201 S. 130 West, shortly after 8 p.m., said John Durrant, who rented the apartment.The blaze spread quickly, witnesses said, engulfing the building's roof, which later collapsed as firefighters from five departments poured water on the flames, officials said.
"I didn't see one unit that wasn't damaged," said West Valley Police Lt. Dan Pearson. He said the building was destroyed.
An apartment security guard on duty at the time the fire broke out began evacuating residents from the 16 occupied units. Some neighbors went door to door to warn residents, witnesses said.
A preliminary search of the smoke-filled apartment building, one of a dozen at the apartment complex, disclosed no injuries, Pearson said.
Stereo equipment, microwave ovens, clothing and other household items lay strewn on the apartment grounds, where fleeing occupants, some of them young children clutching pets and toys, left their valuables.
Firefighters from Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Murray, Sandy and Midvale departments were still battling flames on the apartment roof more than an hour after they arrived on the scene.
Many occupants complained of the fire departments' response time, claiming they took up to 20 minutes to get to the Midvale complex.
"The place was gone by the time they got here," said Missy Daft.
Pearson could not confirm how long it took crews to get to the fire.
As onlookers stood on buildings, peering through thick smoke at the blaze, occupants from the burned building sought refuge in the complex clubhouse, where many were awaiting attention from Red Cross crews Saturday night.
Durrant, sitting with others who had escaped the burning structure, said that before he fled the building he noticed a burning substance dripping from the ceiling outside the apartment's door.
"I opened it and our door frame was on fire," he said. He and Cindy Laggett, Salt Lake City, covered their heads with heavy jackets and fled through the burning doors, he said.
"We lost everything," he said.
Earlier Saturday, a three-alarm blaze at 8:20 a.m. at the Lorna Doone Apartments, 320 E. First South, forced the evacuation of all 28 residents, some of whom were elderly or blind.
"We found heavy, voluminous smoke had inundated all floors of the building, including the attic area," said Battalion Chief Gordon Nicholl, Salt Lake Fire Department.
"I opened the door and saw a lot of smoke. I started knocking on neighbors' doors," said Nancy McBride, a resident of the apartment building.
As smoke filtered throughout the building, the apartment's fire alarm system awakened residents. After firefighters rushed into the building and kicked in 20 doors of the 36-unit building, all 28 residents of the four-story building got out safely.
"Thank God for small miracles," Nicholl said.
All of the residents were evacuated from the building by 8:20 a.m. McBride said that many of the residents are elderly or blind and had to be helped out. They were allowed back into the building at 10:45 a.m.
Most of the building's residents are single and live in studio and one-bedroom apartments, said Stanley E. Stradley, representative of Kier Corp., which owns the building.
"We used virtually all of our resources," Nicholl said, noting that eight of the department's 13 engines and 40 firefighters were at the scene.
The cause of the fire, which started in a basement storage room adjacent to a furnace room and was contained in that area, was still being investigated later Saturday.
Saturday's fires follow a rash of Salt Lake area blazes, including a $250,000 fire Tuesday in Midvale that charred an Allied Development Co. surplus storage site, a fire Wednesday that caused $200,000-plus damage to Purcell Tire and Rubber Co. in Murray, and several barn fires. Three more smaller blazes caused an estimated $77,500 damage Thursday night.