Neighbors speak after fire on Utah’s Capitol Hill

Jul 25, 2018, 4:18 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — Residents of a neighborhood where a brush fire brushed a little too close to homes are talking about what it was like when winds whipped up the flames on Pioneer Day just north of the state capitol building.


It took a village, or at least, a neighborhood and some dedicated fire crews.

“Quite a herculean effort yesterday,” Karl Lieb, Salt Lake City Fire Chief, said. “I feel very good about the job that our firefighters did.”


In some cases, even the neighbors were part of that herculean effort.


Dustin Holt helped save his own home with a garden hose

Dustin Holt shows how close the flames came to his property during the Pioneer Day fire.

Dustin Holt and Justin Peterson used garden hoses to help save their homes, and their neighbor’s. At one point, they were behind the retaining wall, aiming water at whatever they could.


Peterson says some of his neighbors were holding a Pioneer Day pool party when they spotted the plume of smoke, jumping out of the water and throwing on shoes and racing to get garden hoses. Others carried their children out through the hills because the fire was blocking the only road out with flames Peterson describes as 20 to 30 feet tall.

“It got so close over here, it literally burned the hair off my arms,” Peterson says.

Today, blackened brush shows just how close the flames came to destroying homes and property. In some cases, it’s a matter of feet away from yards and playsets. Some homes did sustain damage.

Holt and Peterson says all of the neighbors played a part in helping save the neighborhood, right alongside fire crews.

That praise and sentiment were echoed by Mayor Jackie Biskupski, who toured the area Wednesday morning.

“This is what it means to come together as a community. It was an all hands on deck, and led by an extraordinary team of firefighters,” Biskupski says.

“One guy gave me his flipflops because I was barefoot,” Peterson says.

The men say they didn’t sleep overnight, because even after the flames were out, they had to chase people away who drove up into the Capitol Hill neighborhood to set off fireworks.

Wednesday morning, fire officials said they were able to rule out either fireworks or lightning as possible causes of the fire. That means humans likely caused it, though the investigation is ongoing.

A total of five people were hurt in the fire; two residents suffered smoke inhalation, and three firefighters were also hurt. The Salt Lake City Fire Department says all of the firefighters have been released from the hospital.

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Neighbors speak after fire on Utah’s Capitol Hill