Structure fire destroys apartment, displaces family

ST. GEORGE — Fire crews responded to a structure fire that threatened two apartments near Main Street quickly, thanks to bystanders who called 911 to report smoke and flames coming from an upstairs bedroom of the residence Monday afternoon.

Multiple fire engines and trucks respond to a structure fire in an apartment on South 500 West, St. George, Utah, Jan. 6, 2020 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Shortly after 4 p.m., firefighters were dispatched to a structure fire on S. 500 West just west of Main Street after a bystander called 911 reporting smoke and flames coming from the residence, St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker said.

The building houses two apartments, a two-bedroom in the front and a one-bedroom apartment in the rear of the building. As firetrucks began arriving, they found heavy smoke and flames coming from one of the bedrooms in the front apartment.

Crews made entry and while firefighters were tackling the blaze, which was spreading toward the rear of the structure, a number of firefighters were conducting a primary and then a secondary search for any occupants that could have become trapped inside of either home.

During the search, firefighters located a dog inside of the home which was rescued and then turned over to animal control.

“The dog appeared to be okay,” Stoker said. “But with the homeowners not being home we wanted to make sure the dog was cared for.”

Fire crews continued tackling the blaze which had by then spread down the hallway and was burning through a number of rooms. The fire was also entering the upstairs bedroom located in the front of the home where a number of windows were blown out from the heat of the fire.

Crews were able to extinguish the blaze before any further damage was done to the apartment to the rear.

Dominion Energy and St. George Power also responded and the power and gas to the apartments were turned off.

Ladder 21 is extended toward the roof of an apartment that caught fire on West 500 South, St. George, Utah, Jan. 6, 2020 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The front apartment sustained extensive damage to multiple rooms including the upstairs bedroom, while the rear apartment suffered primarily heavy smoke damage.

The fire may have started in the front bedroom, Stoker said, but the exact point of origin is still undetermined.

“We are heading into the apartment now to begin our investigation,” he said, ” but at this point, it appears that the fire was accidental.”

The tenants in the front apartment were contacted by St. George Police Officers and will likely be displaced for several weeks while repairs are being made to the apartment. The tenants in the one-bedroom apartment will be able to return home in a few days once the residual smoke damage has been cleared.

The American Red Cross will be contacted once authorities are able to speak to the tenants to determine if they will need temporary housing or other resources.

Stoker said the bystanders did a good job of calling dispatch and then holding people back to keep the scene clear prior to the fire department’s arrival. Engines in the area were able to get to the scene quickly.

The home sustained approximately $80,000-$100,000 in damage, but much of the apartment’s structure remained intact. The drywall, interior materials and furnishings, however, were destroyed.

While the exact cause of Monday’s fire has yet to be determined, Stoker reminded residents to limit extension cord usage and check any cords attached to space heaters as they can draw too much power and many extension cords are not graded to take a significant amount of electricity. Keeping the heater off when the home is unoccupied is also recommended, as it can be knocked over by a pet and, if left on, can start a fire.

He also suggested monitoring any extension cords and outlets to ensure they do not overheat, adding that a majority of structure fires are caused by electrical distribution or lighting equipment at this time of year.

“Limit the extension cords and avoid overloading the circuits,” he said.

No injuries to civilians or firefighters were reported.

The St. George Fire Department responded with five engines, the squad truck and ladder 21, along with the St. George Police Department which sent four officers to cordon off both sides of the scene and Gold Cross Ambulance that sent two vehicles that remained at the scene until it cleared.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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