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Woman dies, child critically burned in Utah house fire

Neighbor says grandmother woke up family 'and saved their lives' before she died

DRAPER — One woman was killed and three other people injured — including a child who suffered critical burns — in an early morning house fire in Draper.

Shelly O'Meara, 61, was found deceased inside the house, officials said.

The fire was reported about 12:45 a.m. at 498 E. 13800 South. A neighbor called 911 to report a two-story log cabin was on fire, said Draper Fire Chief Clint Smith.

The first arriving crews found heavy smoke and flames shooting from the front of the structure.

Crews work at the scene of a house fire that killed one woman  and injured three others in Draper on Tuesday, July 23, 2019.
Crews work at the scene of a house fire that killed one woman and injured three others in Draper on Tuesday, July 23, 2019.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

"It was lit up. I mean it was lit up," said Jenny Orgill, a neighbor and friend of the family who could see the flames from her house.

A mother, father and two boys, ages 6 and 9, were outside the house when emergency crews arrived. But Smith said O'Meara — the children's grandmother — was unaccounted for and believed to be trapped inside.

O'Meara was later found deceased just inside the house, the chief said. The 6-year-old boy was flown by medical helicopter to the burn center at University of Utah Hospital in critical but stable condition.

Orgill said it was O'Meara who saved the rest of the family by yelling that the house was on fire and waking everyone up.

"(She) saved their lives," Orgill said.

Crews work at the scene of a house fire that killed one woman  and injured three others in Draper on Tuesday, July 23, 2019.
Crews work at the scene of a house fire that killed one woman and injured three others in Draper on Tuesday, July 23, 2019.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The entrance of the house was blocked by fire, so the father went out the back door and ran around the house where the mother pushed the children out of a window to the father's waiting arms, according to Orgill.

She said the incident has left everyone in shock and doesn't believe the loss has fully hit the family or neighbors yet.

"Horrible. Horrible to know that you were there and the house was on fire and you knew somebody was still in there and you couldn't get to them," Orgill said.

"Horrible, horrible, horrible to hear a 6-year-old in so much pain from burns. I mean, that is nothing anybody could ever forget is the sound of a 6-year-old with burns."

Orgill said the boy suffered burns on his face, an arm, shoulder, chest and a foot. She said the family also has a daughter who was spending the night at another house.

The Draper police officer who was first on scene and helped the family get out of the house was treated at a local hospital for smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion, the chief said. A Draper firefighter was also transported to the hospital to be treated for the same issues. Both were later released.

Smith said his crews seemed to face every possible challenge that a fire can present with this incident.

"This was really challenging right from the start,” he said.

Log cabins burn hotter than regular homes, he said. In addition, the house was located 1,000 feet down a private dirt road. It was also off of 13800 South, which is undergoing major reconstruction and currently blocked at 400 East. The first arriving fire crews had to fight the flames from the exterior of the house using the water supply from their trucks. Their water eventually ran out, Smith said.

Crews work at the scene of a house fire that killed one woman  and injured three others in Draper on Tuesday, July 23, 2019.
Crews work at the scene of a house fire that killed one woman and injured three others in Draper on Tuesday, July 23, 2019.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The nearest hydrant was on an adjacent street. Smith said fire hose was laid from the hydrant through a backyard and through a fence to access the burning home.

Smith said the family was believed to be asleep when the fire broke out and the fire was already in an "advanced" stage as they tried to exit the house. Some bedrooms were on the second floor, he said.

Orgill said O'Meara's late husband originally built the house.

Contributing: Mary Richards, Ladd Egan