Salt Lake City firefighters respond to 6 fires at vacant buildings over past 2 weeks
Firefighters still aren’t sure what sparked a blaze that engulfed three vacant buildings near a beloved concert venue Sunday morning
Firefighters still aren't sure what sparked a blaze that engulfed three vacant buildings near a beloved concert venue Sunday morning; however, they say it follows a pattern they've noticed over the past few weeks involving vacant structures.
The Salt Lake City Fire Department responded to a fire at 740 S. Kilby Court, across the street from the Kilby Court music venue. None of the buildings consumed were occupied by anyone and there weren't any injuries reported.
It was one of six separate incidents involving at least one vacant structure over the past two weeks, said Salt Lake Fire Battalion Chief Dan Walker. Firefighters also responded to a fire Sunday night that consumed a pair of vacant houses near 1032 W. Learned Ave. It's why Walker is asking for residents to report "any suspicious activity" at any existing vacant structures, so the department can get a better hold on preventing vacant building fires.
"These vacant structure fires pose a risk to the neighbors, the properties and the community," he said, as he stood outside the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building on Monday afternoon. "Also, they pose a significant risk to firefighters and first responders who are going into them."
Walker explained that all of the different buildings were at various levels of demolition or renovation at the time each blaze began. Because of the potential safety risks, the department usually only sends firefighters into a vacant building if they need to rescue someone. That also means most of the fires are too damaging to really determine a cause without a long investigation — if a cause is ever determined.
That's why it's unclear what has caused any of the recent fires. Walker said he is "sure" that investigators are looking for signs of human activity causing the fires, either accidentally or intentionally, including any video surveillance in the area of a fire.
The only connection between any of the new fires is that they all involved vacant structures, at least at this point. Walker said it's possible that there have been more vacant building fires because there is more land slated for redevelopment, and it can take time for developers to tear buildings down once they are vacated.
He adds there is no indication any of the fires are connected to the five fires that broke out in a two-week stretch within the city’s Ballpark neighborhood in December. The department hasn't been able to pinpoint an exact cause of any of those fires, either.
That's why the department is turning to the public's help to keep an eye on signs someone has broken into a vacant structure, such as windows that are broken or boardings that have been removed.
Anyone who spots suspicious activity can call Salt Lake City police at 801-799-3000 unless it's an emergency; in that case, they can dial 911.
"If someone sees something, call right away," Walker said. "The sooner we can get there, the more likely we're going to identify the cause, as well as identify who may have been involved."