Good neighbors and a rapid response help save homes from shed fire

ST. GEORGE — A quickly spreading shed fire that threatened nearby homes and property was contained and extinguished after several neighbors came together, along with the fire department’s rapid response Saturday afternoon.

Firefighters fight a double shed fire that threatened homes Saturday afternoon, St. George, Utah, May 6, 2017 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Shortly before 2 p.m., the St. George Communications Center received a call from a concerned neighbor reporting a fire in a shed located behind a residence near 2000 East on Knolls Drive.

As firefighters arrived, the fire had spread to a second shed from the heat generated by the blaze, and both were fully engulfed in flames, St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker said.

Firefighters contained the fire to the sheds, which was being fueled by materials stored inside, including a lawnmower and a gasoline can stored, which ignited and was consumed by the time the blaze was extinguished several minutes later.

Homeowner Jimmy Wahlberg was working on a boat in front of the residence talking to his next-door neighbor, Noel Walsh, who was outside pulling weeds when the men noticed smoke coming from the rear of the home, Walsh said.

Both men grabbed garden hoses and a fire extinguisher and ran toward the burning shed, while Walsh yelled for his wife to call 911. The homeowner’s brother-in-law joined the pair and the three started tackling the blaze, Walsh said, making little headway against the fire that by then was spreading to the second shed.

Numerous firefighters fight a double shed fire that threatened homes Saturday afternoon, St. George, Utah, May 6, 2017 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Walsh said they were advised to back off from the fire to avoid possible injury and the threat of combustible materials by his wife, Sarah Walsh, who was on the phone with the fire department.

The first fire engine arrived minutes later.

Large black clouds of smoke were rising as one of the firefighters, identified by the neighbors as St. George Fire Battalion Chief Darren Imlay, jumped from the fire truck.

“Fireman Imlay I believe is his name, he was out, had the hose connected and was up starting on that fire solo,” Walsh said, “and within two minutes the firefighters had all of the hoses connected to the fire hydrants making sure they had enough water.”

Walsh moved his family to a safer area while firefighters continued extinguishing the fire and paramedics checked on the homeowner’s wife who is pregnant with twins, Walsh said.

After nearly 30 minutes, firefighters had the blaze extinguished and were “overhauling” the area, Stoker said.

Overhauling a fire involves opening walls, ceilings, voids or partitions to check for fire extension. It can be performed while the fire burns out of control  and again after containment. A thorough fire overhaul is completed after the fire is extinguished to remove any smoldering embers or areas to prevent it from rekindling, according to information obtained from Fire Engineering. 

Two sheds sitting side-by-side directly behind a residence catch fire during high winds Saturday afternoon, St. George, Utah, May 6, 2017 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Stoker commented on the homeowners’ efforts prior to the fire department’s arrival.

“The fire got far enough and big enough that they backed off and kept the hoses on it to keep things cool,” Stoker said, “but they did the right thing. They stepped back and there weren’t any injuries involved in this fire.”

Damage was confined to the sheds and contents inside, Stoker said, and despite the risk, the fire did not spread to the nearby homes, leaving them free of any smoke or fire damage.

The fire investigation is ongoing, Stoker said, so the cause has yet to be determined.

“No one was hurt, and we are all safe, so the fire department did their job – and then some,” Walsh said.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by witnesses and emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • mmsandie May 7, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Almost anything stored in a metal shed, in the heat of St. George is combustible..The homeowner did the right thing by calling 911 right away.. But think next time you could see what was in the shed should not have been there..

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