Crews investigate SLC 4-alarm apartment complex fire

Posted at 6:21 PM, Feb 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-09 21:18:16-05

SALT LAKE CITY – Crews are investigating a 4-alarm fire that broke out at an apartment complex under construction in Salt Lake City Sunday evening.

Reports of the fire came in around 6 p.m., and the blaze was in the area of 550 East and 500 South. FOX 13 News received a frenzy of calls, as people could see the smoke from all over the Salt Lake Valley. Click here for a photo galleryof the images they submitted.

Jason Asay of the Salt Lake City Fire Department initially said it was a 3-alarm fire, but a short time later officials said it had been upgraded to a 4-alarm blaze.

Witness Raegan Plewe said it was a large fire.

"It's pretty surreal to see flames that big in real life," Plewe said. "It was shocking."

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear. The building is a four-story apartment complex that was under construction and had a lot of exposed wood, which officials said contributed to the size of the fire.

"Because the wood is exposed, the fire quickly spread and this became a defensive fire--which means we surrounded with our engines and firefighters and trucks and our main concern was to make sure the fire did not spread to any of the close, nearby structures," Asay said.

Officials said at about 7:30 p.m. that the fire was almost extinguished.

"We had roughly 60 firefighters here, we had nine or 10 engines and four trucks, a lot of support staff," Asay said. "...This was a pretty big one. It took a lot of resources to get this fire knocked down."

A Smith's Food and Drug Store across the street from the fire was evacuated Sunday.

"When the flames were high there were a lot of embers in the air, we quickly evacuated the Smith's which is across the street to the north," Asay said.

Keifer Kelson lives near the building that caught fire and said he rushed home when he heard the news.

"Yeah, we saw the flames about a hundred feet up," he said. "We thought we'd have to be saving our stuff...We were also worried the smoke was damaging all our stuff but it's not too stinky in there or anything."

At about 8:45 p.m., fire officials tweeted that investigators had, "detained a man in his 20s who was at the scene of the fire and gave inaccurate information to law enforcement."

A second tweet minutes later said the man "said he was with SLC Fire. He is not affiliated with SLC Fire."

Click here for videos that show the fire as it raged.