A South Salt Lake woman trapped in the basement of her burning house Tuesday threw a clothes iron through a window to escape.
Shocked by her predicament, Sherry Pippy hovered in the street afterward watching as firefighters scrambled to save the structure, 460 E. Warnock Ave. (2470 South). Ironically, her daughter had dreamed the night before of a burning house."I thought it was my home," said daughter Karen Austin, 25, who lives across the street with her husband. When Austin left her workplace Tuesday afternoon, she spotted the thick plume of smoke and instinctively knew it was on Warnock Avenue.
"I dreamt about it all night long - fire, fire, fire," Austin said. "I saw the smoke and said it's either my house or my mom's house on fire."
Pippy was visiting on the phone with a friend and watching television in the basement when the TV screen abruptly blacked out about 11:50 a.m. Cursing her television, she spotted smoke in the back yard and hung up the phone to investigate.
Still clutching the cordless telephone, Pippy described afterward how her husband had previously nailed the door shut leading to the rest of the house, partitioning the basement off as a separate apartment. The only way out was through an outside entrance obscured by smoke.
"I was trapped. But it wasn't anything I couldn't have gotten out of," she said. She next tried the windows, "but they were warped shut." Using a clothes iron, Pippy broke out the glass and crawled to safety, getting sprayed by fire-fighters in the process.
"I had no idea it was as bad as it was," she said. "I didn't even try to get out through the main house because I could hear the popping."
Her grandson, who lives with them, was in school when the fire started. Her husband also was gone. The blaze destroyed Pippy's garage and with it a 1978 Oldsmobile that they had planned to restore this year. The house, damaged by fire and smoke, was filled with collectibles - antiques the couple had collected over the years.
"We spent the last four years doing nothing but pouring money into this house," she said.
Neighbors who witnessed the house and garage burst into flames rescued a Toyota car from the driveway by pushing it into the street and turning their hoses on it.
"We saw smoke leaving the station, so we knew we had a working fire," said South Salt Lake fire Capt. John Nash. South Salt Lake firefighters from two stations were assisted by a Salt Lake City unit in dousing the flames.
The fire originated from spontaneous cumbustion of rags used for painting that were thrown into a plastic can with no lid, South Salt Lake Fire Chief Robert Adams said. The fumes from the rags caused a fire that spread up the wall and to the rest of the house and garage. He urged people to store rags used for painting in airtight cans.