Man Rushes Into Burning SLC Building To Save Lives

Jun 28, 2021, 8:10 PM | Updated: Jul 5, 2023, 12:58 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Everyone got out of a fire that tore through a condo building in Salt Lake City, thanks in part to firefighters and a neighbor who didn’t even live inside the building.

“It was really strange because usually, you run away from a fire,” said Nathan Vaughn.

Vaughn and his wife woke up around 2 a.m. Monday and noticed what looked like an orange light coming through their window. He stepped out onto his balcony to see the building next door, separated from his own by a pool and lawn, on fire.

Everything about the fire at the nearby condos, located at 425 South and 1000 East, pointed to getting away from the building. But in that moment, when he knew his wife and baby son were safe, everything inside Vaughn told him to go toward the fire.

“It wasn’t like a conscious choice of, ‘I need to go help those people,’” he said. “It was like an automatic response: ‘I need to put my shoes on and I need to get over there as fast as I can.’”

Vaughn left the safety of his own home and ran inside the burning building.

His first step was to his friend’s condo on the fourth floor. He banged on Alex Sallade’s door and yelled for him to wake up.

“In my opinion, he was the one who saved everybody because I wouldn’t have woken up probably until the fire was too close,” Sallade said of Vaughn.

Sallade ran out of the building with his wife and then returned to help Vaughn bang on doors and wake people up. Vaughn estimates he banged on dozens of the 51 units inside the building.

It wasn’t until he attempted to get to the fifth floor that he said he “immediately got blasted with a wall of smoke” and “everything in my body said, ‘You cannot go in there, otherwise you will die.’”

Others, he said, were trapped, and he could only call to them because of the smoke and flames.

“We just had to talk them through, ‘Hey, the firefighters are coming, just stay as safe as you can,’” he remembered saying. “There was a woman who had to hang out the window essentially to keep breathing because she couldn’t get out.”

“Due to the quick action of the other residents or their neighbors inside the structure, this was a best-case scenario,” said Cpt. Tony Stowe with the Salt Lake City Fire Department.

Firefighters arrived within minutes. Most people had already been evacuated, but there were still some who were trapped.

“We had people hanging from those balconies that needed rescue,” Stowe said.

Stowe said they rescued six people with a ladder.

Medics treated seven people for smoke inhalation and other minor injuries on scene and four firefighters were injured. Two went to the hospital and were released a short time later.

“The firefighters are the true heroes in my mind,” Vaughn said.

Still, his efforts didn’t go unnoticed, in part, because many people inside said they didn’t hear an alarm go off.

Stowe said only some of the 51 privately-owned condos had fire detectors.

“There were alarms going off, but there was not a central alarm going off, so I became the central alarm,” said Vaughn, who used to work as the night guard at the complex.

There wasn’t much in it for Vaughn when he decided to run inside, there was only time for him to act and do what he could.

“I think that’s what we all got to do, right? We all got to do what we can do, no matter what it is,” he said.

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Man Rushes Into Burning SLC Building To Save Lives