A major fire in a building under construction in Sugar House caused the overnight evacuation of hundreds of residents and created a difficult situation for firefighters due to a high risk of the building collapsing.
The blaze burning in the six-story building at 1040 E. 2220 South began late Tuesday evening, and firefighters don’t expect to be able to contain it anytime soon as parts of the building continue to collapse, a said the Salt Lake City Fire Captain. .Tony Stowe.
Fire Chief Karl Lieb said the department is working on a plan to demolish the building to make the area safe for returning residents. Residents were allowed to go to their apartments with police escorts around noon, but are unlikely to be able to stay at home on Wednesday evening.
Crews expect to fight the fire all day Wednesday. Stowe did not know when the nearly 1,000 evacuees, who had been asked to flee neighboring apartments, would be able to return home permanently. No major injuries were reported, but Lieb said one resident suffered a “minor injury”.
The Sugar House Chamber and Community Alliance noted on social media that businesses in the area were also closed for the day. The chamber asked people to shop at affected businesses after the roads were cleared “to help them recover from this shutdown”.
The blaze broke out around 11 p.m. Tuesday, bringing a response from about 70 firefighters and more than a dozen fire trucks and engines from multiple agencies, Stowe said.
After several hours of fighting the blaze – and as they finished their 48-hour shift – the night crew members were replaced by another platoon, according to the fire captain.
Crews are battling the flames from outside the building and have set up a 150ft “collapse zone” around it due to the risk of potential collapse.
“It’s very dangerous. … That’s one of the reasons why we’re on the defensive. We can’t hire anyone, we don’t want to hire anyone in a structure like this, where there’s no really has no security for life. … Almost everything fell inward,” Stowe said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. Stowe said it was “far too early” to know if the fire was suspicious.
“What becomes of concern is that the scaffolding and the trellis are on the outside of the structure, to protect the workers from the various weather events that we have been experiencing lately,” Stowe said. “But with that also come propane cylinders and heaters.”
Sugarmont Apartments, immediately north of the building, was evacuated, and earlier there was smoke coming from its exterior and some windows were lost.
“So I’m sure there will be some water damage and probably some heat exposure damage,” Stowe said.
A resident of the apartments saw flames appear to reach him.
“I just hope everyone is out of the building and nobody gets hurt. All of that can be replaced,” he said. to be in the building.
The man said he was about to go to bed and “heard a knock on the door. And it was the police, and they said the building next door was on fire and you need to leave immediately.
He ran downstairs, got in his car and drove off. Later he gathered with others and watched the fire burn from a nearby street.
“I woke up to the fire alarm completely delirious. Honestly, I thought the sun was coming up, people were knocking on my door. I don’t really know what’s going on. Then I looked out the window and I saw the whole building was on fire,” resident Drew Noble said.
“I kind of ran away and didn’t grab a jacket. The paramedics gave me a blanket, and now I’m here,” he said, taking refuge in a neighborhood evacuation shelter.
Other nearby residents said they heard “crash” and glass breaking sounds after the fire started.
“We had several explosions and stuff like that, maybe compressors, maybe fuel canisters,” Stowe said. He described the fire as “free burning” as the building has “a lot of exposed wood”.
A shelter for evacuated residents has been established at Forest Dale Golf Course. Early Wednesday, the Red Cross announced that the shelter had been moved to a stake building of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 2005 S. 900 East. Utah Transit Authority buses are also available for evacuees at Fiddlers Elbow, 1063 E. 2100 South, and 1100 E. Wilmington Avenue.
The Red Cross said it had helped more than 200 people evacuated from their homes.
Most residents chose to evacuate elsewhere, Stowe said.
Crews closed 900 East and 2100 South at 2200 South. “We have a lot of tips. So if you don’t need to be in the area, we ask people to avoid the area,” Stowe said.
He asked people to view the fire from a “safe distance”, noting that after the fire broke out, crowds of people took to the streets to view it.
“People are drawn to it, it’s something you don’t see too often, and it makes it very difficult to operate these big devices,” he said.
contributor: Linda Williams, Karah Brackin, Deanie Wimmer, Matt Rascon