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2 Salt Lake fires cause up to $600K in damage

By Pat Reavy | Posted - Mar. 29, 2016 at 10:21 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Firefighters battled two large structure fires within eight hours in Salt Lake City Tuesday. The fires caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

Crews battled a large fire in the basement of a downtown building that houses the Utah Film Center, 122 S. Main. Salt Lake fire investigators said the blaze was likely caused by an overheated fluorescent light ballast.

It was reported just after 3:30 a.m. when a tenant living in the second-floor apartment above the film center awoke to find smoke in his room and called 911, said Salt Lake Fire Capt. Mark Bednarik.

The building is adjacent to Edinburgh Castle Scottish Imports on one side and a vacant building on the other. All the buildings are owned by nearby Zions Bank, Bednarik said.

When fire crews arrived, they found smoke coming from all three buildings. Because of that, it took them a little longer than usual to determine that the source of the smoke was coming from a fire in the basement of the Utah Film Center, he said.

"Crews cut a hole in the floor to vent smoke from the basement and allow crews to descend the stairs with a hose line," the captain said.

Firefighters attempted to shut off the gas to the building, as protocol for each fire. But once crews got into the basement, they could still hear gas spewing inside.

"The meter had suffered extensive damage and the flow of natural gas could not be stopped," Bednarik said.

As a precaution, the immediate area around Main Street was evacuated, including the fire crew inside the building. Employees from Questar eventually shut off the gas from a main valve in the street, Bednarik said.

Main Street, including TRAX service, was shut down and a bus bridge set up between 100 South and 200 South, until about 6:30 a.m.

Some of the items damaged by the fire that were in basement included photography and production equipment, along with films that were being stored, Bednarik said. Total damage to the buildings and contents was estimated at $100,000.

By Tuesday afternoon, the owners of the adjacent businesses were allowed to return, including the Edinburgh Castle store. The Utah Film Center, however, was determined to be "structurally unsound on first floor and not fit for occupancy," Bednarik said.

The apartment on the second floor suffered smoke damage. The person who lived there will be temporarily staying with relatives, he said.

• In an unrelated incident, Salt Lake fire crews also battled a warehouse fire near 7200 West and 2290 South, starting about 7:30 p.m. Monday. Pallets and other materials stored near the warehouse fueled the flames.

The structure was considered a total loss, amounting to somewhere between $250,000 and $500,000 in damage, the captain said.

The building was still used by the owner to store items but was not operating as a current business, Bednarik said. The building had already suffered damage from a previous fire.

The property owner reportedly leases yard space to others for storage and pallet construction and others who have smaller jobs, he said.

Investigators announced Tuesday that a fire used to keep people warm got out of control and ignited propane bottles inside.

State Route 201 was closed between 5600 West and 8400 West for less than an hour because of heavy smoke from the fire blowing across the road.

Contributing: Ben Lockhart, Ladd Egan, Ashley Kewish


Pat Reavy


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