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    Post Orem Structure Fire Displaces 13

    Fire at Orem apartment complex displaces 13 people
    Story Discussion Janice Peterson


    OREM -- A fire at an Orem apartment complex early this morning displaced the residents of four apartment units, including a mother and her three children.

    According to Orem Fire Marshal Bret Larsen, the fire at 843 N. Main started just after 3 a.m. The woman living in the home told firefighters she was cooking tacos on the stove between 10 and 11 p.m. Monday night. The burner was left on during the night, causing the grease to catch on fire.

    Larsen said the woman woke up around 3 a.m. because of the heat in the apartment and noticed the smoke. She ran to the kitchen to turn off the stove, but was unable to put out the fire. She then got her children out of the apartment and notified neighbors.

    "There is quite a bit of damage actually," Larsen said. "The fire started the basement unit near the wall that separates the units. It traveled up through the wall into the cupboards and into the next unit."

    Larsen said all four units were extensively damaged, and the residents of all four units were evacuated. The electrical services to the complex were also damaged, he said, so the residents may be displaced for some time.

    The fire originated on the stove and burned cabinets above the stove and a wall between the woman's apartment and her neighbor's. Although the fire was small, it went up into the wall to the apartment above, so firefighters had to tear out sheetrock and brick to put out the fire entirely.

    "We pretty much made the building unstable," he said.

    Most of the fire damage was confined to the woman's apartment and her upstairs neighbors, but the other apartments have extensive smoke damage as well. Larsen estimated the total loss at $125,000.

    A mother and her three children lived in the apartment where the fire originated, Larsen said. According to the American Red Cross, a total of 13 people from five families were displaced by the blaze and will house the families in a hotel for a few days. Food was also donated for the victims and firefighters from Burger King and Village Inn.

    "There were young children involved, we gave them some Mickey Mouse stuffed toys and comfort kits for kids," said Brett Cross, local Red Cross emergency services manager. "The families were very appreciative that we were there to help them all with shelter, food and clothing."

    The families will be housed for the next three days at the La Quinta Inn, which provided the Red Cross with a reduced rate, Cross said. In the meantime, the Red Cross will also provide financial assistance for food and clothing and help permanently relocate the families. Cross said it may be several months before the apartments are habitable again.

    "Right now we are actively trying to find apartments for them," he said.

    A new apartment will hopefully be found within the next three days, and Cross said families can receive money either for the first month's rent or a security deposit. In many cases, the Red Cross can also work with landlords to waive the security deposit as well.

    The Red Cross generally works as a case worker for families in situations like these, Cross said, connecting people with services available in the community. They work with Community Action Services to get food for the displaced families, and Deseret Industries often provides vouchers for furniture. The LDS stake in the area also contacted the Red Cross, and the families are being cared for by organizations throughout the community.

    "The families are all doing well," he said.
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