Crews battle massive building fire overnight

Officials late Tuesday advised people to avoid the area.

(Salt Lake City Police Department) Salt Lake City fire crews respond to a massive fire at a seemingly unoccupied building under construction in Sugar House early Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022. Salt Lake City Police say officers helped firefighters secure the scene.

Dozens of Salt Lake City fire crews descended on a massive blaze at a seemingly unoccupied building under construction in Sugar House Tuesday night.

The burning building was located just west of Highland Drive, south of 2100 South, and ignited sometime before 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Salt Lake City Fire Department.

Captain Tony Stowe said crews believed no one was inside the building, which he described as a wide-open structure that appeared to still be under construction. Exposed building materials and the resulting open airflow quickly fed the flames, creating a “very active” fire, he said.

By midnight, about 70 firefighters had responded to the massive blaze, including three ladder trucks, Stowe said.

At the time, these ladder units worked in sync to shoot water up to 110 feet into the air, aiming flames that could be seen spitting from upper floors of the building, according to images released by the department.

Salt Lake City police later reported around 1:15 a.m. that there was no injuries reported related to the fire. The police intervened to help the firefighters secure the scene.

“There is concern that the burning building may collapse, so we are asking people to stay away,” police said early Wednesday.

Hundreds of residents evacuated

As a precaution, Salt Lake City fire crews began evacuating people from adjacent residential buildings around midnight as the “high danger” blaze continued to burn overnight, Stowe said.

By 1 a.m., hundreds of nearby residents had been ushered outside, including Amanda Lee, an assistant professor of printmaking at Utah State University. The 45-year-old lives in an apartment across from the fire and was safely evacuated with her cat and a bag in hand, she said.

Firefighters then directed the evacuees to a temporary escape shelter: Forest Dale Golf Course, located at 2375 South 900 East.

Lee was awake when the fire broke out, she told the Salt Lake Tribune. His first sign of the impending fire: the sirens of the fire engines.

At 11:11 p.m., Lee posted a photo of the fire on Twitter. At the time, from the vantage point of his neighboring apartment, smoke could be seen billowing from the opposite open-frame structure, but no flames. A fire engine could be seen parked on the ground below.

Over the next 30 minutes, in the following Twitter posts, Lee shared video of the growing firein which crews could be seen attempting to douse the now clearly visible flames with water.

Police quickly came to her door, ordering Lee and others on her floor to evacuate, she said. By 12:50 p.m. she was outside and OK, but noted that embers could be seen falling in the area “even a few blocks away.”

She remained preoccupied with her apartment, located so close to the great fire. But around 2 a.m., firefighters had no indication that the blaze had spread to nearby buildings.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known. Police and firefighters have advised people to avoid the area at night “to allow first responders space to work”.

– This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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