5-alarm fire in Salt Lake City contained; I-80 back open

Posted at 12:24 PM, Jul 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-08 23:15:51-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- More than 100 firefighters from across the valley had to be called to an industrial fire in Salt Lake City Friday afternoon.

“A lot of loud explosions, smelled a lot of smoke,” said Robert Howard, one of 20 employees to evacuate Rio's Auto Recycling around noon.

The business is located on 4400 West and 700 South in an industrial park.

Fire ripped through the 9-acre lot, destroying two buildings and billowing thick, black smoke across the sky.

"With the wind that was coming in it just quickly fanned those flames and moved the fire throughout this yard,” said Captain Mark Bednarik of the Salt Lake City Fire Department.

Firefighters had to deal with multiple challenges, including 90-degree temperatures and constant explosions, as oil drums and other combustibles blew up all around them.

"It puts us on high-alert and our attention span is really, really focused on that for sure, so we're always looking for places to hide,” said Captain Jeffrey Vaughn of the Salt Lake City Fire Department.

Fire officials are calling this 5-alarm blaze an accident. Employees were cutting pallets, like they do on a daily basis, when something went wrong.

"They hit a nail within one of those pallets, caused a spark, there was a large sawdust pile next to where they were doing this work,” Bednarik said.

The workers went to lunch, and when they returned the saw dust pile was on fire, and quickly spreading.

"You know accidents do happen,” Bednarik said. "I'm sure if they would have known the fire was smoldering when they left, they wouldn't have left it in that condition."

By 4 p.m. the fire was 100 percent contained. However, 50 percent of the lot was destroyed. It's too early to tell the estimated cost of the damages.

“There are a lot of old cars in here, you put a lot of value on old cars, antique cars,” Howard said.

No injuries were reported due to the fire.