Quick-acting citizens prevent worse injury in Cedar City fire

CEDAR CITY — Quick-acting neighbors and passers-by helped keep residents’ injuries minor when a “quite hot” fire ignited outside a fourplex Tuesday evening.

The scene of a home fire at 350 West 1175 North, Cedar City, Utah, June 21, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

At approximately 7:07 p.m, the Cedar City Fire Department responded to reports that a fourplex was on fire at 350 West 1175 North, Deputy Fire Marshal Greg Orloski said.

The fire reportedly started near the front porch, outside the residence, Orloski added. A female resident initially was alerted by smoke. She saw a haze outside the window and thought it was a smoking car. After investigating further, she and others inside the building gathered what they could and exited.

Orloski said the fire quickly spread and had the residents waited longer than a minute and a half, they likely wouldn’t have been able to exit through the door. In that case, they would have needed to go through a window on the north side with the help of firefighters breaking the glass, increasing the chance of injury for both residents and firefighters.

As it was, the occupants reported only minor injuries. The last person to exit the building reported heat exposure, said Orloski, describing it as being similar to a sunburn.

Multiple pets were impacted, including two dogs and two cats. Both dogs and one of the cats were removed from the building and at least one pet was later evaluated by a veterinarian. One cat died as a result of the fire.

No other injuries to residents or firefighters were reported, which Orloski credited to the quick action of other residents, neighbors and passers-by in assisting those inside to escape the structure.

The scene of a home fire at 350 West 1175 North, Cedar City, Utah, June 21, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

The community’s assistance was a “tremendous” help, Orloski said, as the fire department was still on its way to the scene.

Additionally, firefighters’ fast response prevented the flames from spreading, Cedar City Fire Capt. Lowell Sorensen said.

The fast-moving fire burned “quite hot,” said Orloski, and singed the tree and grass in the front yard. The siding on the neighboring unit “drooped” away from the structure due to heat exposure. Sorensen added that dry conditions exacerbated the situation, allowing green sod to burn more easily.

The unit where the fire started was considered a “total loss,” Sorensen said, and the other three units sustained smoke and water damage.

The main living area, nearest to where the blaze ignited succumbed most to the flames, Orloski said. Between fire and water damage, parts of the structure collapsed and drywall installations fell from the ceiling.

Residents from all four units were displaced, said Sorensen, adding that the property owner was involved in ensuring they had a place to stay.

John Rose from the American Red Cross was also on-site. He said three families affected already had found a place to stay by the time he arrived but that he’d be following up with them Wednesday to see if further assistance was required. Red Cross was able to book a hotel for a few nights that the fourth family, whose unit sustained the most damage.

The scene of a home fire at 350 West 1175 North, Cedar City, Utah, June 22, 2022 | Reader-submitted photo, Cedar City News

Additionally, some members of the community who were present during the fire offered residents their assistance to ensure they had basic necessities.

Responders remained on the scene until shortly before midnight. The road directly in front of the complex remained closed until that time but Orloski said residents were able to navigate around the remaining vehicles to enter and exit homes. Because the work lasted an extended period of time, pizza was provided for personnel.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Orloski said officials are piecing together the timeline and will evaluate footage from a neighbor’s doorbell camera.

Four fire engines, one ladder truck, four support vehicles, 30 crew members and the command staff responded to the fire, said Orloski.

The Cedar City Police Department arrived early and was able to close the roads and assist with evacuations. Gold Cross Ambulance, Southern Utah University Police and the Iron County Sheriff’s Office also responded to the call.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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