For a brief moment, Mike LaVelle thought there had been a turn in the Thursday morning weather.
LaVelle was just out of the shower and toweling his hair dry when he heard what he thought was hail falling on the roof of his brick-and-wood house, 263 N. B St., in the Avenues. With a glance out a window, he saw no sign of foul weather.Upon further inspection, LaVelle, 54, discovered his roof was on fire. He wasn't the only one who noticed.
The 7:29 a.m. fire, which initially appears to have started in the attic of the two-story house, produced a lot of smoke and three explosions that attracted the attention of both neighbors and passing motorists.
Peter Danzig was cooking breakfast when he heard the explosions.
"It sounded like a car crunching into something," said Danzig, who lives about three houses north on the corner of B Street and Sixth Avenue. "When I went outside, I could see the flames shooting up from the roof."
Some neighbors said the flames shot twice the height of the house. Fire department dispatchers said they could see the fire from their offices on the fifth floor of the city's public safety complex at 200 South and 300 East, Salt Lake City Fire Capt. Denny McKone said.
Firefighters took 30 minutes to get the three-alarm blaze under control but were unable to keep it from spreading. To the south, flames licked the sides of a stucco residence, singing the walls black. To the north, where the homeowners are away on vacation, fire spread to the roof of their wood-sided house and into the attic, McKone said.
Damage is estimated at $750,000, McKone said. A cause of the fire is still undetermined. No one was injured.
LaVelle, a Delta Air Lines pilot, was in the midst of remodeling the house, which was built in 1913 and has been his home for eight years. A contractor had just finished installing all new floors and several new walls.
"I was about three weeks away from being done," he said, shaking his head as he watched fire hoses continue to pound the charred structure with water.
Now he's keeping his fingers crossed that he has good fire insurance.
"This definitely is surreal," he said.