SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah, May 6, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — Three residents of a South Salt Lake home smelled smoke early Friday morning, and were able to escape a raging fire despite the flames’ central location in the home, which blocked some off from certain exits.
“I heard a scream that there’s fire,” said resident Lacee Richins, “I just grabbed my phone and woke him (her son) up, and I went out the back because I could not get out of my bedroom. I was trying to figure out how to get the dog out, but she hid under the bed.
South Salt Lake Police Sgt. Matthew Oehler was one of the law officers who, along with more than a dozen members of the South Salt Lake Fire Department, arrived on scene after the call for help went out at 1:07 a.m.
“Obviously it was very chaotic,” said Oehler of conditions at the house, at 3435 S. 300 East. “We were trying to shut down traffic, ensure the fire department can get inside the house, and making sure the residents are out…. The homeowner indicated she had some pets inside.”
Oehler, a former K-9 officer, decided to check the back yard.
“I heard a dog crying,” he said. “It was absolutely awful. The moment I heard the dog start crying in the house I thought to myself, ‘I don’t want to listen to this dog burn to death.’ It was just an absolutely gut wrenching feeling.”
The flames were thick and high.
“It was very much a relief when I saw her run out the back door in a panic,” Oehler said, of yellow lab Dixie. “I don’t know if the door was already partially open or the fire had caused an opening, but the dog came rushing out of the house, crying.”
Oehler climbed the fence and spent a few minutes trying to corral the dog. He was able to leashed Dixie and lead her away from the burning building, then to comfort her.
“The dog is a little injured, but otherwise OK,” Oehler said. “Her paws look like they were burned, and the bottom of her stomach area looks like it was burned. But she’s otherwise in good shape.
“Dogs have a high pain tolerance and hopefully we’ll get her down to the vet and get her checked out.”
Two cats perished in the fire, and a third could not immediately be found.
Sgt. Terry Addison, South Salt Lake Fire Department Deputy Chief, estimated early Friday morning that the fire had caused at least $50,000 in damages, adding that a better estimate and the cause of the fire would be known only after an investigation was complete.
Richins was relieved that she, her son and her roommate got out safely. She was rattled, but she was glad to have Dixie back.
“She’s hurt,” Richins said. “She doesn’t sit well, but I feel better knowing she is safe.”