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Four students left homeless by fire

Ivie: faulty garage-door opener to blame
Cesar Ramos, 26, and Karina Sandoval, 25, are pictured in front of their house that started on fire Sunday in Prospector. Photo by Grayson West/Park Record

Four Parkites were homeless this week after a fire tore through their Prospector home Sunday morning. The South Americans escaped the structure without injuries but the blaze torched the upper level of the townhouse at 2010 Cooke Drive. "Our rooms are on the second floor," said Peruvian Karina Sandoval, 25. "I just saw sparks in my window and everybody was sleeping still." "The first thing I did was I tried to wake up all my roommates," she added.

Several people were inside the house when the fire started in the garage around 6:15 a.m., Park City Fire District spokeswoman Tricia Hurd said, adding that the fire spread upstairs and roughly 15-foot flames were shooting from the home when firefighters arrived. "The neighbors have been awesome," Hurd said about Prospector residents who have provided food and clothing for the victims of the fire.

The blaze was extinguished within an hour and crews spent three hours looking for hotspots to prevent flare-ups, Hurd said. Firefighters responded in three fire engines, two trucks and two ambulances. "We are all fine but we lost everything," Sandoval said. This week the American Red Cross helped provide the four roommates shelter in a hotel in Park City. "We’re all international students," she said, adding that two of her roommates are from Peru and the other is from Uruguay.

Cesar Ramos, 26, and 20-year-old Marlene Soto, who are learning English at a Provo language school, were without some textbooks Tuesday as charred remains of the books sat on the lawn.

"Karina was yelling, ‘fire, fire, fire,’" Ramos said.

He was sleeping in a bedroom next to hers. They escaped the home in about three minutes, Sandoval said. "I just took my shoes, my purse everything you can imagine in our rooms is gone," she added. "We don’t have any clothes or anything, it’s all gone." The fire likely caused tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage to the house, Park City Fire Marshall Ron Ivie said. "The cause of the fire was a malfunctioning garage-door opener (inside the garage)," Ivie said. "It’s not very common." Renters had reported the problem to the property manager in the past, he added. According to the Summit County recorder, Silver Meadows Estate L.C. owns the unit. "It had been reported in the past and it hadn’t been repaired." Ivie said. "They heard it malfunctioning the night of the fire."

Two cars were parked in the garage Sunday morning and mattresses, tires and other storage items fueled the blaze, he said. "I don’t even know how they were getting in and out of the cars it burnt the heck out of them," Ivie said. "There was a heck of a combustible load in that garage." An insurance investigator will likely determine whether the landlord was negligent in not repairing the electric garage opener, Ivie said, adding that the residents weren’t at fault. "We didn’t take anything into evidence on that fire," Ivie said.

The home’s appearance sustained significant damage but "structurally, it’s OK," he added. "It’s not destroyed," Ivie said, adding that there are two units in the building. "You see these reports come up and there are 12 units that are burnt down." He praised the quality of construction of the homes and firefighters’ quick response for preventing the fire from spreading. "We need to buy new clothes and we are looking for another place because our house is completely destroyed," Sandoval said. "We’re trying to stay together."

A charitable "Cooke Dr. Fire" bank account has been set up at US Bank for those interested in providing the victims a donation. Contact Hurd at 649-6706 for more information.


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