Early morning fire at townhouse in Washington City triggers evacuations by police

Fire investigators respond after a structure fire burns through the garage of a townhouse and is stopped before entering the living area Tuesday morning, Washington City, Utah, July 3, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

WASHINGTON CITY — An early morning fire that started in the attached garage of a townhouse in Washington City was extinguished before it could spread to adjacent homes and anyone could be injured thanks to a rapid evacuation by Washington City Police officers and the work of the Washington City Fire Department.

At 1:45 a.m. police and firefighters were dispatched to a structure fire reported in a multiple-unit complex off Bluff View Drive, Washington City Fire Department public information officer Julie Reyes said Tuesday morning.

Police officers were first to arrive and checked the residence where the fire started to make sure all occupants were out of the home. Going door-to-door, they “made entry into three more units and helped one family to safety,” Washington City Police Lt. Jason Williams said, adding that police entering the two remaining units found them unoccupied at the time of the fire.

The area above the garage sustains extensive damage from a fire that spread to the exterior area above the garage next door during an early morning fire at a townhouse complex, Washington City, Utah, July 3, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

When firefighters arrived, they found a fully involved fire in the attached garage of the townhouse and were able to contain the blaze “within just a few minutes,” Reyes said, which prevented it from spreading to the living area of the home or breaching into the adjacent home.

The fire was extinguished quickly; however, the garage was destroyed and there was extensive smoke damage inside the home.

The townhouse adjacent to the unit where the fire started sustained fire damage to the exterior of the home just above the garage door area, as well as heat damage to a vehicle that was backed into the driveway just a few feet from the flames.

The heat melted the paint, a section of the rear plastic bumper and the plastic light coverings on the passenger’s side of the vehicle, the section closest to the blaze.

Firefighters remained at the scene well into the morning hours conducting an overhaul of the fire, which entails opening walls, ceilings and any voids to check for any remaining embers or flames that would have extended from the garage into other areas not readily visible.

The tenants had recently moved into the home so the garage was full of boxes and other items that were not yet unpacked when the fire started, Reyes said. The boxes and items fueled the blaze and made for a more extensive overhaul afterward.

Early morning fire that starts in the garage of a townhouse destroys the garage but leaves the home and adjacent units with smoke damage Tuesday, Washington City, Utah, July 3, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

“Overhauling took some time due to the amount of debris in the garage,” Reyes said.

The tenants told Reyes that they had left the garage door open when they went to bed that night and then woke up to the “smell of smoke and the sound of smoke alarms going off.”

Two neighbors in the complex that live across the street said they awoke to yelling, and once outside they found officers “banging on doors to wake people up.”

Fearing the blaze might spread even further, the two neighbors made the rounds to units that were in the vicinity of the fire to make sure the occupants were awake, in case they needed to evacuate quickly. Once firefighters arrived it was extinguished “pretty quickly,” one of the witnesses said.

“We have a tight knit neighborhood here, so we just wanted to make sure everyone was safe,” the witness said.

Reyes said this particular townhouse was constructed using a 1-hour firewall rating, meaning it was built using materials that can resist fire exposure for one hour before it is breached, which would then allow it to spread to other units in the complex.

The newer units in the complex were constructed using a 2-hour firewall rating, he said.

Additionally, in modern residential construction where the garage is attached to the home, a fire-rated drywall is required on all garage walls and ceilings to create a fire separation between the garage and the main living area.

No injuries were reported in the fire. The investigation is ongoing, and the cause is undetermined at the time of this report.

Four trucks and nine firefighters were sent from Washington City Fire Department, as well several police officers along with paramedics from Gold Cross Ambulance, who responded as a precaution.

This report is based on statements from police or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.


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  • comments July 3, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    I wonder if it was an “electrical fire”..

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