West Valley fire injures 6, leaves 12 families homeless

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WEST VALLEY CITY -- Residents of a West Valley City fourplex narrowly escaped a fast-moving fire after being trapped by flames.

Crews say the fire started in the main stairwell of the building near 4100 South and 4800 West around 3 a.m.

The apartment manager says he heard noises, opened his door and saw smoke and flames.

"I heard screaming: ‘Get out of there! There's a fire!' I went to the front room. I saw flames, opened up the front door; shouldn't have. Flames just shot straight in. I shut the door and told everybody to get out," said apartment manager Jerimy Vialpando.

Vialpando's quick thinking may have prevented residents from getting seriously injured. After he got his family and roommates out of the apartment, he pulled his truck against the building. He says his in-laws jumped from their second-story window onto his truck.

Another couple followed their lead, but also had to worry about a 4-month-old baby.

"I just remember the flames. I saw flames over in the family room in the corner. I just ran back and I saw smoke starting to fill the ceiling," said the child's mother, Kamee Peterson.

When they reached the window, her boyfriend jumped with his boy in his arms.

"I held onto the ledge and slid down, and then my boyfriend held onto my son, squeezed him really tight,and just jumped," Peterson explained.

"The baby's fine. They're fine. Everybody's fine, with the exception of some cuts and smoke inhalation," Vialpando said.

Six people were injured. Five of them were treated for smoke inhalation and should be OK. The sixth person, Ruinold Chee, suffered serious cuts when he broke a window to escape.

Chee's arms and legs are wrapped in bandages after a trip to the hospital; his clothes still covered in blood.

"I was probably the last person to leave the apartments, I was frying," said Ruinold. "I heard my friends screaming ‘Ruinold! Ruinold! Get out, Ruinold, get out!' So I was like OK, here I go. I busted the window and got out."

Residents in the building say the one positive from this whole experience is that they're all alive.

Most of the residents are taking advantage of Red Cross help. The organization will put them up for a night or two and get them food and clothing.

Investigators aren't sure if this was accidental or arson. They think a discarded cigarette may be to blame, but they are conducting interviews to get more leads.


Story compiled with contributions from Nicole Gonzales and Randall Jeppesen.


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