Fatal South Salt lake Fire
Fire kills boy, 10, in his South Salt Lake homeBy Paul Koepp
SOUTH SALT LAKE — People were jumping from windows of the apartment complex Monday while neighbors ran to theirs, startled by the sound of shattering glass and the sight of flames and thick smoke pouring from the building.
Outside, the screaming mother and brother of Jackson Avery, 10, searched frantically, not knowing if he was trapped inside or had been out playing on his day off from school.
Their nightmarish fears were soon realized when firefighters discovered the boy's body by a couch on the floor of their living room.
The two-alarm fire at the Royal Garden Apartments, 236 E. 3560 South, had simply moved too fast. It started about 12:20 p.m. in a corner of the room where a Christmas tree had been set up and quickly spread to an upstairs apartment.
South Salt Lake Fire Chief Steve Foote said Jackson died from a combination of burns and smoke inhalation.
His mother and older brother, Steven, 18, had also been inside when the fire broke out. They were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. She was later taken to St. Mark's Hospital with difficulty breathing.
Foote said there was too much fire and smoke for crews to immediately enter the apartment.
"It was too dangerous for our folks to go in," he said.
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It took 20 minutes to get the fire under control to the point that firefighters could enter the downstairs apartment, and they then made the tragic discovery.
"It's a very somber occasion for everyone involved. … There's not a whole lot anyone could have done to change what happened today," Foote said. "He didn't stand much of a chance."
Foote said a paramedic sustained a minor finger injury and one other resident suffered smoke inhalation.
Jackson's brother was sleeping when his mother's screams awakened him, according to Maria Garcia, a friend who lives nearby.
Garcia said he was searching door to door, "barefoot in his boxers," so she gave him a blanket to stay warm.
Steven Avery is an accomplished blues guitarist and was teaching his brother to play on a guitar and amp that their grandparents had given Jackson for Christmas.
"With (Jackson's) attention span, it might have taken a while, but that would have been a way wonderful thing to see happen," said their grandfather, Craig Avery. "He was quite a little lover of music."
Jackson also loved swimming in the pool at the complex and counting money, and he delighted in his grandfather's tricks like pulling a quarter from his ear.
"He was a sweet little boy with a real good attitude toward life," Craig Avery said. "That little boy had a pure heart and unconditional love for the people around him."
Corey Christiansen, whose ex-wife lives in the upstairs apartment and manages the complex, said their daughters, ages 13 and 16, were home with a friend at the time of the fire. Two of the girls jumped out a window and one made it out the door, he said. None of the three suffered serious injuries.
Both apartments were total losses.
Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire, but Foote said it appears to be accidental.
"The damage is so substantial that a lot of the evidence is burned away," he said.
Foote said he expected most other displaced residents to return as soon as power was restored to the building. He was trying to contact the apartment complex's owner Monday afternoon and did not know whether the building, which he estimated dated to the 1960s, had adequate fire protection.
Sprinklers could have helped slow the blaze, he said, but they were not required when the building was built. However, the building's firewalls had worked properly to prevent the flames from spreading to neighboring apartments, Foote said.