5 fires in a night keep Salt Lake crews busy
4 of the blazes may be suspicious, agency says
By Derek Jensen
Deseret Morning News
Salt Lake firefighters were stretched to their limits battling five fires that started in the space of about five hours.
Salt Lake fire officials escort a suspect away from fire scene at the Peter Pan Apartments.
Amanda Lucidon, Deseret Morning Newsjeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
"Every one of our units were busy doing something fire-related," Salt Lake fire spokesman Scott Freitag said. "I haven't seen a night with that many fires since the 7 1/2 years I've been here."
Four of the five fires that started late Wednesday night and early Thursday appear to be suspicious, according to Freitag. Fire investigators were busy Thursday trying to investigate each of the blazes.
Salt Lake police arrested one man for investigation of starting the night's second fire at an apartment complex, but investigators do not believe he started the other four overnight blazes, Freitag said.
The first fire started Wednesday at 10:30 p.m., and the last fire was reported Thursday at 3:40 a.m., Freitag said. Fire crews didn't finish with mop-up work until 5:30 a.m.
The overnight string of blazes started with a 200-acre grass fire on Beck Street. It was unclear how the fire started, but witnesses reported seeing a car and three people, possibly teenagers, leaving the scene shortly after the flames started, Freitag said. A team of 25 firefighters worked to prevent the flames from spreading to a nearby pallet yard and propane facility.
The fire eventually burned itself out in a rocky area up the hill, Freitag said.
Crews were still battling the field fire at 11:30 p.m. when firefighters were called to a three-alarm blaze at an apartment complex near 400 East and Broadway (300 South). Firefighters arrived to find heavy smoke and flames coming from a basement apartment.
As firefighters battled flames, residents noticed a man standing in the area. Authorities chased the man and found him hiding in some bushes, Freitag said. The man's wife lived in the complex, and it appears the fire had been intentionally started in the basement unit below her apartment, Freitag said. According to police, the woman noticed her husband throw something into the apartment below hers before the fire erupted. Police arrested the man, 43, for investigation of aggravated arson, violating a protective order and an outstanding warrant for violating a protective order.
One tenant was treated and released at the scene for minor smoke inhalation. Damage to the building was estimated at $20,000.
The city's third fire started about midnight in a car near 200 East and Sixth Avenue. Flames were visible in the passenger side of the car when crews arrived. They put the fire out quickly before it spread to a nearby building, but the cause appears to be suspicious, Freitag said.
At 1:47 a.m. a fire started at an unoccupied house near 2200 South and 2100 East. The fire appeared to be intentionally set because firefighters detected a scent of gasoline. Arson dogs were used to examine the scene. The fire caused as much as $60,000 damage, Freitag said.
The final overnight fire was reported in another unoccupied house near 1200 South and West Temple at 3:40 a.m.
Damage was estimated at $30,000.
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07-04-2003, 12:28 PM #1
Utah-5 Fires keep SLC Firefighters BusyFront line since 1983 and still going strong
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