Fire chases dozens of workers out of SLC construction site

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A fire engulfed a building near 2100 South and 4250 West in Salt Lake City Tuesday morning. Fire crews were able to quickly get the blaze under control, but construction workers who were there when it started say it could have been prevented.

The fire started around 11:15 a.m. in a building under construction.

Scott Freitag, of the Salt Lake City Fire Department, said, "We've talked to the contractors that were inside at the time, and there was an iron worker that was up near the top--the south part of this roof--that was cutting a hole in the roof. For some reason, either the flame or the heat from the torch got into contact with the membrane that covers the roof and caught the membrane on fire."

Freitag said the material was very flammable. He said, "It's a petroleum-based product, like rubber, so it caused for some thick, black smoke that everybody was able to see."

We were coming out of the east and west side like ants.

–Tom Jolls, witness

The wind made battling this fire difficult. Freitag said, "The wind picked up, and since the fire started on the south side and the wind was blowing to the north, it just took the fire all along that whole side of the roof."

Tom Jolls was installing windows. He saw the fire start on the southeast corner of the building and spread quickly across the roof.

He said, "We were more concerned about the gentlemen inside the building that didn't hear anything going on with all the machinery and the grinders and the welders, so we went in there and started hollering ‘Get out, get out!"

About 30 workers were able to evacuate safety.

Some construction workers say it wasn't safe in this phase of construction for a welder to be on the roof at all.

Construction worker Marcus Lloyd said, "They sent a welder up on a finished roof, which is never supposed to be welded on, and that started the fire."

We tried to speak with the employees of the company, Tom Stuart Construction, but they had no comment.

Fire crews don't have an exact dollar amount for damage costs, but they say it's extensive and will be a pricey repair.


Story compiled with contributions from Jennifer Stagg and Marc Giauque.


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