Kids playing with lighters catch tree on fire; flames jump to apartment complex

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – Three kids are responsible for an apartment fire that has displaced at least 20 people from their homes.

Firefighters were called out to the Callaway Apartment complex in Taylorsville around 12:03 this afternoon about a tree on fire in the complex.  Within minutes the fire had been upgraded to a two alarm fire as the flames jumped onto the adjacent building causing severe damage to at least 8 of the units.

“We were dispatched to an apartment fire, originally began as a tree fire, got out here and it was upgraded immediately with multiple calls from citizens.  Upon arrival our units called for a second alarm.  We have 8 units that are unlivable at this point.  Close to 20 people displaced,” said Dave Ulibarri with Unified Fire Authority.

Residents at the complex quickly jumped in to help save others, running up to homes and knocking on doors letting people know about the flames.  One resident, busted down the door and rescued a wheel chair bound man from the burning building.

“I went around and I know there’s a handicap guy on the backside of the building so I busted his door and got him out and there was just three or four of us who went around and got everybody out,” said Ken Lindoff.

Investigators now know three kids – an 8-year-old girl and two 10-year-old’s – a boy and a girl -were playing around with lighters near the trees when it caught on fire.  Witnesses say they saw the juveniles smoking and one had even chased the kids away.

“When I opened the door they took off running around the side of my building and I came out and I could see ashes and I could smell smoke, and when I came out of the building the pine tree was on fire,” said Lindoff.

Investigators also know who the children are and that they live in the complex, they are waiting until their parents get home so they can speak with them.

As of 5:00 PM firefighters were still out at the complex putting down the last of the flames.  Mild smoke could be seen for the sidewalk as firefighters blasted water into the complex.

Investigators are now evaluating the structure of the building and are also checking on the structure of the building next to it determine whether those residents can move back into their homes.  They will be checking on carbon dioxide levels as well any smoke damage.  If they determine it is not safe, another 20 people will be left looking for a place to stay until further notice.

Fortunately, no serious injuries were reported.  An older woman required a breathing treatment but no serious injuries were reported as a result of the fire.

The apartment complex was working with the displaced residents, finding them temporary housing in the complex and the Red Cross was also on scene to help anyone who required immediate assistance.

“We’ll assess whether they have clothes or food or whatever needs they may need.  And we’ll accordingly provide those things,” said Pat Malan with the Red Cross.
Even so, residents are full of emotions tonight as many have lost everything.

“Pretty much everything that me and my girlfriend split our money and our time into, pretty much, kinda gone so I’m pretty upset about that but, I know we cam power through it, you know?  I’m a strong person, and so is she,” said Jacob Drain.


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