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    Default Utah-Fatal Apartment Fire

    Apartment Fire Kills One
    October 18th, 2005 @ 9:51pm
    (KSL News) -- One person died tonight when a fire broke out in a Provo apartment.

    Firefighters arrived a few hours ago near the Valley Inn Motel on South State Street. They confirmed the death, but will NOT say if it was a man or woman.

    They do say another person was inside.

    No word yet on what started the fire.
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    Default Follow Up

    Foul play is ruled out in fire

    Woman in mid-50s died; DNA to confirm identity

    By Sara Israelsen
    Deseret Morning News
    PROVO After looking at initial medical reports, investigators have ruled out foul play in the fatal apartment fire in Provo on Tuesday night.
    Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning NewsYellow tape surrounds a small apartment in Provo after fire gutted the building Tuesday, killing a woman in her mid-50s. "Soot and smoke in her trachea and lungs indicate to us that along with some of the preliminary evidence we (can rule) out a suspicious fire," said Provo Fire Chief Coy Porter. He said the balance of the probe will focus on whether it was an accident- or smoking-caused fire.
    The state medical examiner's office determined Wednesday that the charred human remains found in the apartment were those of a woman in her mid-50s, Porter said.
    The investigation, led by Provo's fire marshal, focused mainly on identifying the victim, but because dental records proved inconclusive, Porter said officials will take DNA samples in order to confirm an identity.
    Provo detectives assist where they can, said Provo Police Capt. Rick Healey.
    "We're just wanting to make sure that we cover all the bases in case something comes back that looks suspicious," he said.
    Healey said police were initially interested in a man who had been living with the woman in the apartment. But the man, who was arrested a week and a half ago for investigation of domestic violence and then released from jail Monday, was not in the area when the fire was reported.
    "We've placed everybody in places where they would seem to have a reasonable alibi," Healey said.
    The last person to see the woman had been with her in the afternoon but left around 5 p.m., Porter said.
    Because of Wednesday's medical focus, officers also need another day or two to determine the cause of the fire, which began in the bedroom, Porter said.
    The apartment, located behind the China Garden restaurant at 1425 S. State, had two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a three-quarter bath and a half-bath, and will need to be totally renovated because of the fire and smoke damage, Porter said.
    The apartment was attached to the restaurant, but the eatery was not damaged in the blaze, nor were seven other housing units on the north side of the restaurant.
    The owner of the restaurant was in his office but unaware of the fire until police arrived a few minutes after 7 p.m., Porter said.
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    Default Update

    Trash, cigarette to blame for fire

    Body of woman in unkempt home is not yet identified

    By Sara Israelsen
    Deseret Morning News
    PROVO Clutter and a lit cigarette were the apparent causes of a blaze that killed a 47-year-old woman last Monday in Provo, according to investigators who on Tuesday finished a probe into the blaze.
    In addition, Provo officials say the building torched in the fire had been illegally converted into a living space and the owner had not obtained a permit to use it as a rental property.
    Provo Fire Chief Coy Porter said Tuesday the damage wouldn't have been so great if the rooms had been tidy.
    "Unfortunately, oftentimes when we have fires, a contributing factor is housekeeping," he said. The woman's body was found partially on a bed amid clothes and junk, and the burn appears to have started where one of her arms would have been.
    "There was just a lot of clothing and trash debris pretty much everywhere," Porter said. "We think that probably the cigarette ended up in clothing . . . then caught on fire and spread to the bed."
    The investigation took slightly longer than normal because officials had to individually remove each item of clutter from the bedroom and hallway and check for "any hint of a suspicious thing," said Gary Jolley, Provo fire and rescue battalion chief.
    Although the fire investigation is over, fire officials are still waiting for information from the medical examiner's office to confirm the identity of the deceased woman. The examiner's office is using DNA samples to identify her.
    But officers feel confident that they have the name of the woman who died because there is still only one person missing from the area, Porter said.
    The woman had been renting the living area from the owner of China Garden, a restaurant at 1425 S. State, but Porter was unsure of the details of the rental agreement. The recommendation now is to demolish the addition.
    The fire fatality was the first in almost six years in Provo, Porter said.
    Porter said the place the woman was living "was an illegal apartment."
    "It has been modified without a permit," he said. "It just doesn't comply with the codes."
    Because the building lacked official rental status, it wasn't listed on Provo's records and hadn't been inspected for necessary safety features, such as a smoke detector.
    Detectors are part of Provo's Rental Dwelling License policies, which owners of any rental property must apply for and have approved to be legal.
    Provo keeps a database of the licenses issued even pending applications to ensure the city knows who is responsible for the area and to help maintain safety standards, said Rita Trimble, zoning administrator with Provo City.
    Along with the smoke detectors, rental units must be structurally sound, have two exits a door and a window contain independent heat sources and have special electrical outlets for kitchens and bathrooms, Trimble said.
    Newer apartments and condominiums usually don't have safety-compliance issues, but potential snags come from "conversions" or older homes modified to be apartments, Trimble said.
    Purchasing a smoke detector is inexpensive and painless, but enlarging a basement window is usually a bigger problem. But Trimble said she encourages landlords to think about potential disasters during a fire.
    "Just think if you were sending your student to college for the first year," she tells them. "If it were your child who could not get out in case of fire, would there be any hesitation (to enlarge the window)? Absolutely not."
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