Marty Larsen watched quietly from across the street as the business he built over the past 52 years burned to the ground.
Larsen discovered the first flames of the blaze in the southeast corner of the Larsen Foundry Supply building just after noon Tuesday. His grandson, who works at the business, came running with a garden hose to try to put it out."I told him to drop that thing and just get out of here - he wasn't going to put it out with that," said Larsen, who drove to a nearby fire station to report the blaze.
"I told them they'd better hurry up and get there, this was going to be big," Larsen said.
About 50 firefighters from four agencies battled the blaze for nearly 10 hours before finally extinguishing it.
Fire investigators began to pick through the rubble Wednesday to try to determine the cause.
Firefighters from South Salt Lake, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County and West Valley City contained the fire about 6 p.m. Tuesday but were still putting out hot spots in the building at 860 W. 2600 South late Tuesday night and early Wednesday, said South Salt Lake Police Sgt. Beau Babka.
Firefighters and police officers were on the scene overnight. A flare-up occurred about 3 a.m. but was quickly extinguished.
The amount of damage caused by the fire is still unknown. However, it appears the Larsen Foundry is a total loss, Babka said. Two other businesses in the building, Target Mailing and Bramble's Security, also suffered some smoke and water damage.
Employees from at least eight other businesses along 800 West were evacuated as firefighters fought the blaze. Many of them sat along the street Tuesday afternoon, eating their lunches as they watched the fire.
"The good news, if there can be any good news in this, is that no one got hurt," Babka said.
The fire was repeatedly fueled by containers of adhesives and isopropyl alcohol used in the manufacturing process of foundry equipment, Babka said. Those substances may be what caused several small explosions during the fire. Firefighters were able to remove a 50-gallon propane tank.
The fire appears to have burned through the building in an L shape, from the southeast corner to the northeast corner and then along the northern wall, Babka said.
From the sidelines, Larsen and other family members speculated about which equipment or chemicals were causing changes in the color of the billowing smoke clouds that poured from the building.
In addition to foundry equipment and supplies, the building housed two Ford Model T cars that one of Larsen's sons had rebuilt and the materials for a small dutch-oven business another son was trying to start.
"There's a lot of memories there," Larsen said. " But you can't break down and cry over it. There's nothing you can do - it's already happened."