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Maintenance worker risks life to save 2 in burning apartment

A maintenance man broke down the door of a burning apartment Wednesday, saving the lives of the two people inside.

The fire broke out about 12:40 p.m. at the McDonald Crown Apartments, 4425 S. Christopherson (3900 West).Lewis Allen Coleman was delivering fliers to residents at the apartment complex when he spotted the flames through the sliding glass doors of the upstairs apartment. Coleman said he dropped everything and ran to the apartment's front door and began banging on it.

When no one answered, Coleman said he "popped" the door open and ran inside.

"There were lots of flames," Coleman said. "(The flames) were in the whole kitchen area, and they came across the ceiling. The paint was on fire, and it was coming down on the floor."

Coleman woke up a man sleeping in the burning apartment and told him and a 5-year-old boy the man was watching to get out of the apartment. Coleman and another worker at the complex then ran to the other apartments and pounded on doors.

The other maintenance worker, Paul Allen Sindt, woke up a man who was sleeping in a downstairs apartment. No one was home in the other two adjacent residences.

"I'm just glad no one got burned," said Coleman, who was burned in a fire himself at age 15 and has scars on his calf. "I know what that's like."

"As fast as that building went up, it scared me," said Debbie Bennett who stood on her front porch two buildings south of the fire and watched as firefighters continued to poke and prod the charred apartment for small pockets of fire in the roof.

"We had just finished lunch. I walked outside here to the porch and saw the smoke and the maintenance man pounding on the doors to get people out. Two minutes later the place was up in flames."

No one was injured in the fire, West Valley City Fire Capt. Oliver Moore said. Damage estimates to the building were still unavailable Thursday. Firefighters have yet to determine the cause of the fire.

The interior of the two-bedroom apartment where the fire started was destroyed, Moore said. Two downstairs apartments suffered smoke damage and the upstairs apartment on the south side of the building received heavy smoke damage. Its windows either melted or shattered from the heat of the fire, Moore said.

The displaced residents of the burned building were relocated to empty apartments, a maintenance worker said.