Security guard stops fire in Capitol Theatre

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A police officer working as a security guard saved the day when he stopped a fire burning backstage at Salt Lake City's historic Capitol Theatre.

When the officer spotted the flames climbing one of the curtains backstage, he quickly sprang to action, using two fire extinguishers to contain the fire until firefighters arrived.

Sgt. Mark Burgess of the Unified Police Department said, "By his quick thinking, we averted a huge disaster."

The question for many theatre lovers is, will the show go on?

Right now, the musical "Legally Blonde" is running at the Capitol Theatre, and Wednesday night there's a showing at 7:30. That show will go on as planned; however, theatre representatives say between now and then, they have a lot of cleaning up to do.

Firefighters were called to the historic Capitol Theatre located on 200 S. near West Temple shortly after 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The building is under 24-hour security, and the officer on duty had smelled something suspicious coming from the stage area. As he headed to check on it, he reported hearing popping sounds. When he got closer, he saw one of the curtains going up in flames.

"It's a very large curtain that sits toward the back of the building, and it was climbing all the way to the ceiling," Burgess said.

Burgess says the officer quickly grabbed two fire extinguishers and knocked down the fire, then when firefighters arrived they finished it off.

Firefighters say there was a little smoke damage in the theatre and a little bit of water damage behind the stage, but other than that everything looks to be OK.

"We got very lucky," said Battalion Chief Clair Baldwin of the Salt Lake City Fire Department. "We have access issues, we have all kinds of remodeling that has been done over a 80-90 year period, so this buildings does present some problems. If it was to catch fire and actually involve the structural members, it would be a difficult fire to put out."

Investigators say this fire was caused by curtain draped over a ladder that was leaning up against a light powered by a generator.

That generator runs a test every Wednesday morning at 7:30. When it turned on it powered that light, which caught the curtain on fire.


Story compiled with contributions from Shara Park and Andrew Adams.


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