MIDVALE — A two-alarm fire at an apartment complex here caused about a half-million dollars damage early Tuesday.
A handful of tenants unable to escape their apartments because of thick smoke and fire were rescued off their third-story balconies by firefighters.
The fire was reported about 1 a.m. at the Chelsea Park Apartments near 7200 South and 400 West. When crews arrived they immediately found "a lot of flames and smoke" coming from one of the buildings, said Midvale Fire Capt. Jay Thomas.
"The building was so full of smoke we couldn't finish getting people out," he said.
Those who could not be evacuated through the main stairway were safely taken to the ground by ladders from the outside.
The two-alarm blaze was the sixth-largest fire at an apartment, condo or duplex along the Wasatch Front in three weeks.
Officials said the fires were not related.
Mariah Taylor said she and another tenant smelled smoke about 11 p.m. Monday but couldn't trace from where it was coming. Two hours later the complex's fire alarm woke her and this time flames were easily visible from the unit where the fire is believed to have started.
Kyla Lewis said the fire alarm also woke her up but at first she thought it was a prank. Fortunately she got up to check anyway.
"I saw flames shooting out the building," she said. "I grabbed my cat and got out."
Both Lewis and Taylor said there was an explosion from the balcony of one of the units after the fire started, possibly from the propane tank of a barbecue grill.
Thomas said the fire spread quickly and crews did a great job containing it. Three units were gutted by fire and water damage, he said. But he said the outcome could have been much worse.
"Luckily no one was hurt. That went right," he said.
About 100 people were forced to evacuate. All but about 10 were expected to be allowed back into their apartments by Tuesday afternoon.
The cause of the fire had not been determined Tuesday but Thomas said it appeared to be accidental. Investigators determined it started on the balcony of one of the units, he said.
Thomas said residents did a good job of evacuating quickly after hearing smoke detectors and fire alarms. One resident was awakened by a crashing sound from the fire and was able to safely evacuate, he said.
In light of the time the fire started and how quickly it spread, Thomas said the end result could have been much worse.