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Salt Lake, Smithfield firms suffer 4-alarm fires

Nearly 150 employees were evacuated and work was delayed at a packaging warehouse on the west side of Salt Lake Wednesday, due to a fire that quickly reached four-alarm status and caused $2.5 million in damage.

An employee working the conveyor belt at a Huish Detergents, 1950 S. 3600 West, called 911 when the fire started around 4:30 p.m. The facility, which occupies an entire block, was evacuated immediately.

Salt Lake City Fire spokesman Scott Freitag said because of the concrete construction of the building and an electronic fire system in place, firefighters were able to contain the blaze to the room in which it started.

"It wasn't a large fire, but it was complicated in what they had to do to get the fire out," he said. "The operation was to get to it without letting it spread."

Steel doors automatically closed around the fire, containing it to a room where the company operates a printing press to label shipping materials. Investigators said it was a malfunction in one of those printing presses that started the blaze.

"It gave us the time to do it right so no one gets hurt," Freitag said.

One worker was treated for smoke inhalation but there were no other reports of injuries.

Freitag said nearly 60 firefighters were able to get the fire under control in a little more than an hour, but water was used for only 15 minutes. He said containment was second-priority to evacuating the employees.

The fire at Huish was the second four-alarm fire in the state in 24 hours.

Officials are saying a fire started by accidental causes Tuesday at Mortimer Pallets, 400 South and Main Street in Smithfield, decimated the business. It began around 9:30 p.m. and was raised to four-alarm status within 20 minutes, said Logan Fire Chief Mark Meaker. Nearly 70 fire-fighting personnel, including 10 engines, two ladder trucks and medical response vehicles, knocked out the blaze in a little more than an hour — not before it claimed the entire building and a majority of the company's inventory, which was thousands of wood pallets, Meaker said.

He said the 300- by 40-foot building was a total loss, probably "hundreds of thousands of dollars." Several cars parked nearby were singed and one home had fire damage.

Nearby businesses were evacuated as a precaution but there was no report of injuries. Witnesses say intense heat could be felt within a mile of the building.

"It was a large fire, one of the largest Smithfield has ever had," Meaker said. He said credit for a quick response and handling time is due to the recent adoption of an automatic aid agreement signed by North Logan, Logan city and Smithfield agencies.

"It was our first working fire since signing the agreement and it made all the difference in the world," he said.

Most agencies in the state operate on a mutual aid agreement status, allowing for agencies to special request additional help one agency at a time. In this case, Meaker said, all the resources were called out at the same time and it allowed for a 10- to 15-minute-quicker response.

"It paid for itself tonight," he said.


E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com