Some businesses can reopen, but tenants near massive Sugar House fire remain displaced

Oct 28, 2022, 3:07 PM | Updated: Nov 22, 2022, 11:38 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Tenants who have been displaced from their apartments since Tuesday night’s massive fire in Sugar House will be allowed to temporarily go back into their units to grab essential items, such as medication and clothing.

But because of continued concerns over the “collapse zone” from the remains of the burned out structure that was destroyed, those residents from the nearby evacuated buildings were told Friday that they will not be allowed back in full-time just yet, and there is still no estimate for when they can return.

The Salt Lake City Fire Department gave an update Friday on the latest involving the investigation and cleanup of the huge fire that destroyed a six-story apartment building – The Residences at Sugar Alley – under construction in the area of 1040 E. 2220 South according to a report on KSL.com.

While some tenants are still not allowed to return, some businesses on Highland Drive were told Friday they could reopen. All businesses starting with Standard Optical, 2124 Highland Drive, and going north can now reopen. But businesses starting with Cold Stone, 2126 S. Highland Drive, and heading south into Wilmington and Sugarmont Drive will remained closed. Highland Drive between 2100 South and Sugarmont will remained closed to vehicle traffic.

Portions of The Vue at Sugar House Crossing and the Sugarmont Apartments and Townhomes are still in the collapse zone, according to Salt Lake fire officials, and will remain evacuated. However, the managers for those apartments will be contacting tenants about information on how they can temporarily go back in their units and retrieve essential items.

Some Sugar House fire evacuees still not allowed back as demolition continues

An estimated 75 residents remained displaced as of Friday.

“I just hope to get a timeline soon,” said Mark DePaul who isn’t allowed to return to his Sugarmont apartment except to retrieve a few personal items.

DePaul said without a clear timeline he was left making last-minute decisions about were to sleep.

“Checkout’s at noon but we don’t know if we need to extend it a day until like 8 p.m.,” he said.

He understands the danger and hopes that crews will soon be able to stabilize the portion of the burned out building that’s near his apartment.

“It just destabilizes your day,” he said about being evacuated. “I can’t quite do my business or operate how I want to.”

He said he has other questions about being reimbursed by insurance for the hotel stays.

Demolition work will continue until midnight Friday evening and then resume from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, according to the fire department.

“We appreciate the public’s patience with this—from the residents and business owners—it’s been great,” Salt Lake Fire Capt. Shaun Mumedy said. “It’s just a terrible situation but the worst thing we can do is let them in early and then have something bad happen because we didn’t do our due diligence and make it safe.”

Mumedy said there is no estimate on when the evacuation order will be lifted. The demolition process is a slow one, he said. And as more of the damaged structure is torn down, more fire hot spots are exposed. Plus, inspectors need to continually reevaluate the integrity of the structure as more of it is demolished.

It was also announced Friday that the Salt Lake County Health Department is putting together a link that residents can use for real-time monitoring of the air quality in the area.

As for the cause of the fire, Mumedy said an investigative task force consisting of Salt Lake fire personnel and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is continuing to interview construction workers, residents, business owners and collecting nearby surveillance videos in an effort to determine how it started.

The fire was reported about 11 p.m. Tuesday and continued to burn through Wednesday. Most of the estimated 1,000 residents forced to evacuate from nearby apartment buildings were able to return home Thursday. But those with units immediately facing the damaged structure remained out of their homes. The Red Cross has set up a shelter at a meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 2005 S. 900 East.

No major injuries were reported from the fire.

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Some businesses can reopen, but tenants near massive Sugar House fire remain displaced