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Salt Lake City fire deemed 'suspicious'

Investigators looking for person of interest possibly connected to fire
Posted at 11:28 AM, Sep 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-09 19:15:26-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City firefighters battled to extinguish a large fire they later called "suspicious" Wednesday morning.

The fire started at an abandoned building at 200 South and 900 West downtown.

Fire crews with Salt Lake City Fire Department were responding to a separate grass fire about a block away when they noticed the smoke.

“I just ran around to the outside and noticed the building was on fire,” said Capt. Craig Weaver. “We were just trying to put the fire out, but the building was fully involved when we got here.”

The blaze had consumed a large, abandoned dry cleaners building. Firefighters said the fuels left behind from the business acted as an accelerant, causing an estimate 75-percent of the roof to collapse.

PHOTOS: Firefighters battle flames in Salt Lake City

“It’d probably been burning for a little while before anybody noticed it,” said SLCFD Battalion Chief Ryan Mellor.

Thick black smoke could be seen from miles away as the building continued to burn.

“The entire building was full of flame,” Mellor said. “It went to a second alarm almost immediately.”

“When my firefighters first started to go in to fight the fire… the ceiling collapsed, and at that point we went to a defensive operation,” Weaver explained.

Five engines and 45 firefighters were dispatched to the area, working to extinguish the flames from the ground and using ladders to hit them from above.

“We’re just trying to protect ourselves and get the fire out,” said Weaver.

A few hours and thousands of gallons of water later, the building was a total loss, but the battle came to an end.

In a press briefing, Mellor said this was the third fire to have started in the area Wednesday morning. The first two were grass fires, one of which was the call crews were responding to when they saw the smoke from the building.

Investigators are searching for a person of interest that may be connected to the fire.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the area directly in-front of the scorched building, at 900 S and 200 W, was still closed down.

At that time, fire crews had re-deployed a ladder and were doing hot spot mitigation from above.