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Eleven people escape two-alarm house fire

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COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Eleven people, including eight children, were able to safely escape a two-alarm house fire early this morning.

Fire crews arrived at the burning home, near 7500 South and 2000 East, just after 1 a.m. to find fire coming from the garage, up the side of the house and into the attic. Flames were coming from the roof when firefighters arrived.

Neighbors said they were alerted to the fire after hearing a series of loud pops or bangs.

"I had just gone to sleep when I heard this horrible noise. It sounded like an explosion to me," said next-door neighbor JoAnn Symmes, whose vinyl fence and siding were melted from the heat coming from her neighbor's burning house.

Neighbors estimated the children who lived in the house ranged in age from 11 months to 12 years old. Many of them were refugees from Jordan who were living there temporarily until they could get their own home.

The woman who owned the home ran to Symmes' house after getting everyone out.

"She was just hysterical," Symmes said.

"The fire was coming straight out of the garage, straight up the roof," said neighbor Diane Larsen. "There were loud pops, like, boom boom boom. That's what woke us up."

The explosions also woke people sleeping inside the burning house.

"That fire was coming out of that window just like a blowtorch," said Symmes.

Investigators from the State Fire Marshall's Office and the Unified Fire Authority said Tuesday they believed the fire started in the garage, but they were unsure of a cause. The fire was not suspicious in origin, said UFA Capt. Jay Torgersen, but there was so much damage, investigators never may be able to determine what started it.

The loud pops people heard could have come from a number of different sources, including gas cans and paint cans, he said.

The fire left several people in the neighborhood shaken.

"All I could do was stand out here and shake. I've never been so frightened in my life," Symmes said. "I am so grateful no one was hurt. That's all I can think of."

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com