3 recent grads help fight the fire near Fountain Heights Apartments in St. George

ST. GEORGE — As firefighters were en route to extinguish a brush fire allegedly sparked by a young boy, residents of the Fountain Heights Apartment complex did their best to contain the fire and warn their neighbors.

A trio of recent high school graduates were among the first to react when a fire broke out in their apartment complex. From left: Ashton Hirschi, Tim Powers and Damian Cervantes, St. George, Utah, May 27, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

A trio of young men – Ashton Hirschi, Tim Powers and Damian Cervantes – were just returning to their apartment around 5:20 p.m. when they saw smoke rising from behind their building. Powers said he saw their apartment manager running with her phone, so he reasoned that the fire department was already on its way. He decided to help slow the fire’s spread using the communal fire extinguisher in the apartment stairwell.

“I grabbed a rock, smashed the glass and grabbed the fire extinguisher,” Powers said. “We contained it for a good five minutes before the wind took it right away. At that point, we could hear the sirens. I was telling everybody to get back, and we got all the houses cleared.”

Powers and Hirschi recently graduated from Desert Hills High School. Powers’ roommate Cervantes is a 2021 graduate of Dixie High School.

St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker told St. George News that a number of community residents had been working on the flames when his department’s fire engines arrived.  

Firefighters with the St. George Fire Department stow their gear as they complete their response, St. George, Utah, May 27, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

He said that dry chemical extinguishers like the one used by Powers are best used indoors, and cautioned that community members should have a way out planned in case the flames spread.

The fire started behind the Fountain Heights Apartment complex, just south of the intersection of River Road and Brigham Road. It burned in a 250-foot line from its point of origin toward the community pool. 

“We’ve had several fires in the same location,” Stoker said. “Usually it’ll jump and go up the hill toward the water towers. We had a strong wind blowing from the north to the south, which kept that fire on this side, and there’s a cinder block wall between the path and the apartments, so it kind of kept it isolated there.”

The St. George Fire Department dispatched four engines and a wildland unit, but Stoker said they released the fourth engine shortly into the response in case another fire started. He said the dry conditions and the proximity to multiple residences was the reason for the large response, not wanting the wind to carry the fire any further than could be avoided.

No one was injured as a result of the small brush fire, and community members were quick to assist the fire crews by making way and staying back while the flames were put out, Stoker said.

Quick thinking by community members and a swift response by the fire department brought the flames under control before any serious damage was done, St. George, Utah, May 27, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

Officer Ladarius Delaney with the St. George Police Department said the fire was started by a 7-year-old boy in the apartment complex.

“He found a lighter by the bushes, set a piece of paper on fire, threw it down and caught the brush on fire,” Delaney said. “He started stomping it out but wasn’t able to get it all the way out. He’s seven years old, so he’s going to be referred to juvenile court for reckless burning.”

Parents should be cautious with fire starters like lighters and matches and keep them out of reach from children, Delaney said.

“We’ll get a rash of fires right here just as school gets out,” Stoker said. “We have a lot of children that seem to find matches and lighters, and since they don’t have activities to do during the day, they seem to resort to starting fires. We want to remind parents to please keep track of your kids.”

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

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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