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Fire officials concerned over spike in structure fires across Wasatch Front

Posted at 5:13 PM, Jul 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-01 19:13:25-04

MURRAY, Utah — Murray City Fire investigators say one man is in custody in connection with an apartment fire at the Stillwater Apartments that left around 50 people looking for a place to stay.

As of right now, that man is only considered a person of interest, and no charges have been filed.

The fire started around 2:30 Thursday morning with residents reportedly hearing a 'popping sound' coming from the third floor of the complex.

Read - 50 people displaced following Murray apartment fire

Murray City Fire crews worked throughout Thursday clearing debris and rubble from the top floor of the building—where they believe the fire started—in a process known as fire digging.

By about 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, crews had cleared enough from the third floor, allowing investigators a chance to get inside.

Murray City Fire Department's assistant chief, Joseph Mittelman, told FOX 13 that investigators were looking for burn patterns which will give them a better idea on how and where the fire started. He added that it's still too early to determine the cost of the damage but expects it will be "well over $500,000."

The blaze at the Stillwater Apartments is yet another in a string of structure fires that have impacted the Wasatch Front in the last few weeks, causing millions of dollars' worth of damage all together.

"It seems like we're just getting a lot of fires especially these structure fires," said Patrick Costin, public information officer with the Unified Fire Authority. "It seems like there is a lot more than typical."

Read - Ogden fire damage estimated at $3.1 million after homes, businesses destroyed

Costin said unlike wildfires, structure fires do not typically have an active season, or time of year when fire fighters would expect to see more activity.

"We'll go weeks and weeks nothing, then you might see two, three, four pop up in a week then go a few months with just nothing," he said.

All of the fires in the last couple of weeks appear to be isolated incidences, but Costin says a lot of the fires they see at condos and apartments start on the balcony.

"So, we do see a lot of those. Balcony fires caused by cooking," Costin added. "So, we have barbeques, and the barbeque gets too hot. We all know grease build up on barbeques can be an issue. We want to tell the people to be extra attentive if you are cooking on the balcony."

Read - Massive construction site fire seen across Salt Lake Valley

UFA said apartment and condo residents should never leave a grill unattended. Costin recommends keeping a fire extinguisher close to where you are cooking.

"We even tell people have multiple fire extinguishers," he said. "Have one in the kitchen for sure, for sure. Then also have a fire extinguisher on that balcony on those outdoor cooking spaces."

With the fourth of July holiday quickly approaching, Costin said UFA is preparing for a "really busy" weekend. They want to remind people to use extreme caution when grilling and are asking the public to leave fireworks to the professionals.

Crews at the Stillwater said they expect to continue working on the structure well into Thursday evening as they try to pin down a cause for the fire.