Nancy McBride said she heard a loud noise Saturday morning before she opened her door and found the fourth-story hallway of a downtown apartment building filled with smoke.
"I opened the door and saw a lot of smoke. I started knocking on neighbors' doors," said McBride, a resident of Lorna Doone Apartments, 320 E. First South.According to fire officials, the three-alarm blaze caused $50,000 in damage after starting in a basement storage room adjacent to a furnace room about 8 a.m. The fire was contained in the basement level.
"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.
As smoke filtered throughout the building, the apartment's fire alarm system awakened residents. 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.
As the first residents emerged in bathrobes and slippers, firefighters rushed into the building to make sure everyone was out. They kicked in 20 doors of the 36-unit building while searching for residents, Battalion Chief Jerry Duke said.
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 was still being investigated later Saturday.
A Red Cross Response Team was called into the apartments to evaluate needs for food, clothing or alternative shelter. Duke said there would be no need for alternative shelter for residents unless the apartment's electrical system could not be repaired Saturday.
The Saturday morning fire follows a rash of Salt Lake area blazes, including three that caused an estimated $77,500 damage Thursday night.
An estimated $75,000 damage was caused when a fire gutted a free-standing garage at 1415 S. 13th West and then jumped a few feet across a back fence and started burning a similar garage at 1416 S. Clayton Street, Duke said. The fire was reported at 5:37 p.m.
Janice Wolf, who lives in the 13th South home, said sparks from a torch her husband was using started a pile of rags and cans of paint on fire in a garage corner.
"My husband was welding 50-gallon barrels and accidently a spark flew off off into the corner into some rags," Wolf said.
Duke said either a propane or oxygen tank exploded fueling the fire that shattered a window in Wolf's home and damaged the Clayton Street garage owned by Charles Romano. Romano was not home at the time and a car parked in his garage was damaged.
While firefighters were mopping up that fire, smoke was reported coming from the Myers Container Corp. at 49 S. Sixth West and from a vacant home at 132 S. Eighth West about 6 p.m. Myer Container Corp. manufactures 50-gallon drums.
Damage to the Myers building was estimated at $2,000. Damage to the home was estimated at $500, a fire department dispatcher said.