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Layton woman dies in mobile-home fire

Investigators believe faulty water heater cause of fatal blaze

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A water heater is thought to have sparked the Tuesday blaze at a Layton mobile home.

A water heater is thought to have sparked the Tuesday blaze at a Layton mobile home.

Chris Bergin, Deseret Morning News

LAYTON — Investigators say a faulty water heater apparently started a fire that killed a 45-year-old woman in her mobile home early Tuesday.

The body of Suzan Merritt was found on a bed in a back bedroom, said Layton Fire Chief Kevin Ward. Fire investigators believed a water heater near the bedroom may have sparked the fatal blaze.

Crews were called at 6:12 a.m. to a report of a structure fire with a person possibly trapped inside at the Cedar Wood Trailer Park near 200 S. Main. The woman's son and daughter, who lived in the trailer next door, were the first to call 911. They knew their mother was still inside her burning trailer, Ward said.

The first arriving crews found heavy fire coming from the middle to back portion of the trailer, he said. Because of the intense flames they were forced to fight some of the fire from the outside before entering the home.

"The fire was burning quite rapidly," Ward said. "There was a tremendous amount of fire damage."

Ward called this type of incident a "high-anxiety call" for firefighters because they knew there was a high probability that someone was trapped inside. Crews were at the fire within minutes after the first call, but there was little they could do.

"In this situation the fire built up too quickly," Ward said. "By the time we got here there was a rapid build of fire."

Neighbor Joe Evans said the flames were shooting about 30 feet into the air when police evacuated the surrounding trailers.

"It's sad. It's extremely sad," he said.

Neighbor Barry Carr said he started to smell smoke just after 6 a.m. and then saw the flames.

"It was pretty intense," he said.

Ward said it appeared the water heater may have been leaking for some time, causing the floor underneath to sag. Investigators believe the water heater may have finally sagged into the floor so much that it caught some of the materials on fire.

Tanks of oxygen that were around the bedroom likely fueled the fire, Ward said. Merritt was on oxygen full-time, he said.

Merritt's husband, who is a truck driver, was contacted while working in the Midwest Tuesday about the incident and boarded a plane to return home that afternoon.

A family cat and dog also died in the fire.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com