Dozens of refugees displaced by fire at South Salt Lake apartment complex

Posted at 6:43 PM, Jul 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-10 08:42:04-04

SOUTH SALT LAKE,  Utah -- An apartment complex full of refugees had to be evacuated in South Salt Lake Sunday after a fire broke out in one of the units.

The fire started at the Villa Charmant apartments on 300 East 3900 South. Eight-year-old evacuee Ayusha Karki says it was the scariest day of her life.

"My mom's like, 'run' and I'm like, 'why' and my mom's like, 'there is a fire' and I'm like, 'are you kidding me,' and she ran upstairs to get her stuff, it was so big, I'm like, 'are you kidding me,'" Ayusha said.

The flames were spreading fast, from one apartment unit to another.

"The flames were coming up the sides of the whole building from the middle floor," said resident Ashley Fore.

Fore immediately began knocking on doors, making sure people got out.

"I was really worried, the people that live on the other side, because no one would have even knew until it hit them, you know," Fore said.

One resident had to be taken to the hospital for heat exhaustion. In total, 18 apartments were evacuated, some of them destroyed. A few families will be left with nothing but the clothes on their back.

"Most of the people that live here don't make a lot of money, so it's going to be very difficult for them to replace a lot of things and put their lives back together," said Bob Tuttle with the Salt Lake County Housing Authority.

Many of the residents are refugees from various countries. Salt Lake County, who owns the building, is working with the Red Cross to provide help.

"We'll find out tomorrow what we are going to be able to do for them as far as any type of extended accommodations so they are not being a drain on the Red Cross if we can help that," Tuttle said.

Neighbors say the fire originated when a person grilling on a balcony fell asleep. Grilling on balconies is against the rules.

"We do what we can, you can't run it like an institution, its people's homes, people's dwellings," Tuttle said.

The person responsible is not facing any kind of criminal charges at this time. It's just being labeled as an accident.