SLC fire says open flame cause of fatal apartment fire

May 31, 2022, 10:43 AM | Updated: 9:16 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City Fire Department said the cause of a fire that left one dead and five injured was personal smoking materials too close to an oxygen source.

“Do not smoke or have any type of open flame or heat ignition source anywhere near your medical oxygen or any other type of oxygen for that matter,” Capt. Shaun Mumedy with the Salt Lake City Fire Department said.

The fire’s cause explains why many residents said they woke up to a large exploding noise around 2 a.m. when the fire first broke out.

“It wasn’t a banging, it was an explosion,” Lee Knowlden, who lives in the building next door said. “We felt the walls shake.”

The booming sound would have been the oxygen cylinder exploding.

“It was like two o’clock in the morning and me and my dog were sound asleep and we heard this huge explosion. It sounded like an atomic bomb,” Sam Cottrell, who lives on the second floor of the building said. “I thought it was the end of the world but I looked out the window and I saw nothing but orange so I just grabbed my dog and got out.”

“It’s pretty rare,” Mumedy said of the explosion. “Oxygen cylinders in any shape or form are very generally safe when used properly, when they’re kept away from incendiary devices or open flames.”

The fire broke out at 243 S. 300 East and now 13 residents are displaced without access to their belongings. Of the two residents that were injured, Mumedy said that one was treated for burns to their hands and that the other is still in critical condition in the burn unit.

The fire department said smoke detectors were sounding an alarm and helped people escape the old building—which does not have a fire sprinkler system.

“At the time this specific building was built, sprinkler systems were not required by code,” Mumedy said. If older buildings undergo a renovation, Mumedy explained, they would be required to comply with current building codes.

“Our Fire Prevention Bureau does great job of making sure that what buildings that don’t have sprinkler systems are in safe condition,” Mumedy said.

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SLC fire says open flame cause of fatal apartment fire