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Morning fire at Alta displaces 55 people

Published January 9, 2006 1:08 am

Three-alarm: Snowy road conditions and the building's location made it hard to fight the blaze

By Jason Bergreen and Michael N. Westley The Salt Lake Tribune

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Correction: The Hellgate Condominiums are located on Highway 210 at 9670 E. Little Cottonwood Canyon Road. An incorrect address was listed in a story that ran Monday. Also the condominium complex consists of two buildings, one with seven units and one with six units. There is also a garage and employee apartments.

A three-alarm fire destroyed a seven-unit Alta condominium complex early Sunday and forced the evacuation of 55 residents.

Smoke and flames were licking the west-side wall of the Hellgate Condominiums when fire crews arrived about 1 a.m., Unified Fire Authority spokesman Jay Torgersen said. The complex is located Highway 210 at 9670 E. Little Cottonwood Canyon Road.

Five people and two firefighters suffered smoke inhalation, but were not hospitalized, Torgersen said. Sixty firefighters from three agencies - UFA, Sandy and Midvale Fire - responded to the blaze.

Two of the complex's four buildings were evacuated. One building burned; the other received minor smoke and water damage, Torgersen said.

Fire crews had a hard time reaching the blaze quickly because of snowy road conditions, he said, and then they had a hard time getting water to the building, which is located in a canyon.

"Getting water on the back of the building where the majority of the fire was burning was nearly impossible," Torgersen said.

The evacuees, some of whom were permanent residents and others were tourists, were relocated in vans to nearby condos provided by the town of Alta.

Seventeen of those evacuated were taken in by the Goldminer's Daughter Lodge, where they were given free rooms, toiletries and whatever clothing could be spared from lost and found bins and donations from guests and local residents. Assistant Manager Penee Lynn said the evacuees were disappointed about the loss of personal items but were keeping a good attitude.

"They're all really glad that everything's OK. They've lost a lot of stuff but were, like, 'We're alive, we're fine,' " Lynn said.

Estimated damage to the burned building has not been determined but is expected to be significant, Torgersen said. The roof collapsed and the structure is uninhabitable. Damage to the second building is minimal but will require an evaluation from an engineer before residents are allowed to return.

The American Red Cross provided clothing to some displaced residents and helped arrange travel plans for those from out of town to return home.

The exact area where the fire started and how it began are still under investigation.

jbergreen@sltrib.com