Yard waste ignites, sparking fire in home’s garage

A garage is extensively damaged following a residential fire reported near South 1300 Circle, St. George, Utah, Dec. 16, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A fire at a St. George home early Sunday morning was quickly extinguished thanks to a combination of fire-rated building materials and rapid suppression efforts by the fire department.

A number of items, including a vehicle, are extensively damaged following a structure fire at a residence in the area of South 1300 Circle, St. George, Utah, Dec. 16, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Shortly after 2:30 a.m. firefighters and police responded to the structure fire reported in the area of 1300 South Circle involving a two-story residence, St. George Battalion Chief Darren Imlay said.

The responding police officers were first to arrive on scene, where they found the home’s occupant safely outside before updating incoming engines that there were active flames coming from the garage.

Firemen arrived and initiated a “fast attack” on the blaze, a firefighting strategy designed for immediate intervention that entails extinguishing the fire rapidly in order to save life and property.

“Crews were able to knock that fire down pretty quickly,” Imlay said.

The fast attack also prevented the blaze from spreading to the living areas of the home, keeping it confined to the garage area. Among the many items stored in the garage was a vehicle that sustained extensive burn damage.

Two windows along the exterior wall of a home are blown out from the heat of a fire that ignited near South 1300 Circle, St. George, Utah, Dec. 16, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Fire officials determined the fire started outside in a trash can along the home’s east exterior wall, Imlay said.

Earlier in the day, the homeowner was burning leaves and then bagged up the remaining material after it appeared to be completely extinguished, with no smoke or embers visible, at which point the bags were placed in the trash can.

The material smoldered for hours while heat began building inside of the can, eventually causing it to ignite and burn through the can into the garage.

“Instead of burning upwards towards the roof, this fire burned downward and spread into the garage from the underneath the ground plate,” Imlay said.

The fire continued spreading and was fueled by the items stored inside of the garage, filling the room with smoke. Once the smoke seeped into the home, it set off the smoke detectors, which alerted the homeowner who then called for help.

A garage is extensively damaged following a residential fire reported near South 1300 Circle, St. George, Utah, Dec. 16, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Imlay said the heat from the fire blew out the garage windows and caused extensive burn damage that was confined to the garage, while the home’s interior sustained smoke and water damage.

Imlay explained that residential garages are typically constructed to contain fire and prevent it from spreading for a certain number of hours, depending on the building material’s rating.

“That garage was constructed with fire-rated materials, which allowed enough time for us to get in there and knock the fire down before it could spread and destroy the home.”

Imlay cautioned that fire-rated walls can become compromised if, for example, holes or access points are cut into the wall, preventing the wall’s fire-containing capability. He said fire-rated access materials are available and should be used if an access point is needed at some point.

A residential fire reported near South 1300 Circle started in a trash can on the east exterior wall of the garage, St. George, Utah, Dec. 16, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

“Just cutting into the drywall in the garage removes the fire-rating protection completely,” Imlay said. “So if a fire started, it would no longer be confined to that area and would likely spread.”

A majority of the damage in Sunday’s fire occurred along the interior and exterior garage walls where the trash can was located; it also damaged a number of items stored nearby along with the vehicle parked inside the garage. The trash can was later found outside completely charred and destroyed.

The residents were taken in by neighbors, and no injuries were reported.

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

 

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

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

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6 Comments

  • Brian December 16, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    It’s odd to me that newer houses like this don’t have a smoke detector in the garage. Maybe there are too many false positives from car exhaust when you’re coming and going. It seems like half the house fires I see in the news start in or around the garage.

    • Comment December 17, 2018 at 1:02 am

      My house was built w/ none in the garage as well. I put a couple in there, but I didn’t interconnect them to the others in the living space, so I’m not sure I’d hear them if they went off. But yes, the garage needs them maybe more than any other space in the house

    • Redbud December 17, 2018 at 4:44 pm

      Combustion particles from cars, lawnmowers, etc.. can cause false positives. A better option for garage spaces are heat detectors. The high heat from flames will trigger it, and they also respond to a preset rate of rise. For example, one alarm I looked up will alarm at anything above 135 degrees F, OR if the temperature rises more than 15 degrees F in 1 minute or less, the alarm will sound. It detects heat only, no smoke particles. They sell different varieties on Amazon. Look at the specs, whether it is hardwired, battery, and it’s other specifications to see what works best for your garage space.

      • Comment December 17, 2018 at 9:03 pm

        haven’t had a problem with that. Only thing that really set them off so far was a 2-stroke bike started inside the garage. The cars don’t seem to set them off.

  • Comment December 17, 2018 at 1:03 am

    Pretty weird to see it burn right under a garage door. hmm

  • Captain Oblivious December 17, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    Smoke detectors can malfunction if the temps are fall below 40 or above 100. Plus the dust causes problems too. Not that those smoke detectors are very reliable anyways.

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