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Cause of fire that gutted two Tooele homes may remain a mystery

Published July 10, 2013 10:58 am

Public safety • Gasoline, solvents in garage fueled the flames.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

What caused two homes in Tooele to quickly go up in flames Tuesday night may remain a mystery, despite investigators' best efforts to sift through the ashes for clues.

Bucky Whitehouse, assistant fire chief for the Tooele Fire Department, said Wednesday that the fire — fed by gasoline and other flammable solvents stored in a mechanic's garage — "burned so intensely that there's likely no evidence left" to answer investigators' questions.

"Right now, we're calling it 'undetermined,'" Whitehouse said.The fire was initially reported as confined to a garage at 794 W. 740 South just before 4 p.m. Tuesday. However, when crews arrived they found the garage — with six all-terrain vehicles and two cars burning inside — fully involved and spreading throughout out both the attached home and an adjacent residence as well.

"It was a particularly difficult fire to fight," Whitehouse said. "Along with the ATVs and vehicles in the garage, the mechanic who lived there had several solvents that were flammable that really fueled the fire."

Complicating matters further were winds of 10-20 mph and temperatures near 100 degrees. It was nearly 11 p.m. before crews extinguished the flames.

Still, no firefighters were injured, though a male occupant of the first home had to be treated for smoke inhalation.

No one was living in the second home, which was in the process of being sold.

No dollar damage estimates were released but both homes, along with all the vehicles, were completely destroyed, Whitehouse said.

The American Red Cross Utah Region is assisting the displaced family of six with lodging, food, and other necessities, spokeswoman Teresa Zundel said.

remims@sltrib.com

Twitter: @remims