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1 injured, 24 units evacuated in Cottonwood Heights fire

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — An elderly woman was injured in an early morning fire that forced the evacuation of 25 units of an apartment complex.

Just after 3 a.m. Friday, an elderly woman called 911 saying her apartment at the Santa Fe Apartments, 7015 S. Santa Cruz Drive (1550 East), was on fire, said Unified Fire Authority spokesman Keith Garner. The woman didn't give any information about how the fire may have started, he said.

"(She said) 'My house is on fire,' and that's kind of it," Barnes said.

Despite several requests by dispatchers for the woman to get out of her apartment, "They said she just couldn't do it," said Barnes.

It was not immediately known whether the woman was disoriented or had a disability that prevented her from evacuating. Barnes said fortunately, Cottonwood Heights police arrived at the complex in under five minutes and helped the woman get out.

The woman was taken to the University of Utah Burn Center with severe respiratory burns, according to the Unified Fire Department.

The woman lived in a second floor apartment. Barnes said the fire quickly spread to a unit directly above the woman. Those two units were considered total losses from the fire, he said.

Because it was 3 a.m., officials were worried about a lot of people being home and asleep. Barnes said extra firefighters were called to the scene just to go door to door to make sure everyone got out safely. At least two fire alarms did go off, Barnes said.

A family of five had to be recused from their third-story balcony when thick smoke prevented them from getting to their front door. Barnes said firefighters used a ladder to get them down.

The fire was knocked down in about 15 minutes. Damage was estimated at $200,000.

In addition to the two units destroyed by fire, two other units suffered heavy smoke damage, according to Barnes. The cause of the fire remained under investigation Friday. The elderly woman who reported the fire uses an oxygen tank, he said. But crews were unsure Friday if that contributed to the fire.

Most tenants were expected to be allowed back into their apartments by Friday afternoon. Those who need essential medications or a coat or shoes were being allowed to briefly return to their apartments to gather those items.