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Sugar House fire leaves 11 homeless

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A Sugar House family of 11 was left homeless when neighbor children playing with a candle started a fire at the house Tuesday evening.

A boy, 6, and his sister, 4, went to a single-story house at 2147 S. 800 East to visit friends, said Salt Lake Fire Capt. Jeff Stansfield. Nobody was home, but the children noticed that a candle had been left burning in the front room.The children began to burn newspaper with the candle and the fire spread to clothing items on the floor, Stansfield said. The children ran out, shut the door and went home across the street.

Moments later, someone alerted the children's parents of the fire and they ran to the house. A nearby police officer also noticed flames and smoke emerging from the house and called the fire department about 5:45 p.m.

When he arrived, the officer found the neighbors trying to enter the house, Stansfield said. They told the officer some of the nine children that lived in the residence could still be in the basement.

But a quick search by fire-fighters shortly after they arrived revealed the house was empty. The fire was concentrated in the front room, but smoke and heat, estimated at 2,000 degrees, caused extensive damage throughout the house, Stansfield said.

"Every piece of plastic melted down like taffy," Stansfield said.

"The house was so hot, my hands were burning through my gloves," added firefighter Ginger Bar-ra-clough, who was on the first hose through the back door. "When we saw the glow of the fire and opened the nozzle, the water turned to steam and burned us some more."

Firefighters had the fire under control within 20 minutes. Crews then conducted a more thorough search of the house in case anybody was still there. "Kids have a way of hiding, especially after they have started a fire," Stans-field said.

The children who started the fire and their parents were given literature explaining the consequences of playing with fire, Stansfield said. The children were accustomed to going over to their neighbor's house to play.

Hours later, the homeowner told investigators she had left a scented candle burning while she was away, Stansfield said. The fire department advises adults never to leave a candle burning unsupervised.

Damage to the house is estimated at $85,000. Nobody was injured. The family who lived at the house will stay with relatives while their home is repaired.

On March 5, a smoke detector awoke the 13-member Toia family to alert them their house was on fire. Nobody was injured in that fire, but nearly everything in the house was destroyed.