Intensity of Sunday’s inferno damages building next door

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SALT LAKE CITY -- While one building was burning in downtown Salt Lake City on Sunday night, the problems were just beginning for the one right next door.

“The fact that it was still standing was like a miracle to me,” said Quinndon Sparks, property owner at 530 East and 500 South.

The home to four medical offices was just feet away from Sunday’s fire, which left it with a slew of repairs on Monday morning.

“The heat and the intensity shattered all the windows on the east side of the building,” Sparks said.

As dozens of crews were trying to put out the fire, they were also rushing to Sparks’ building, breaking through doors and hosing down walls to make sure none of the flames jumped.

“A lot of it was smoke damage and water damage,” Sparks said. “It was probably upwards of $40,000 to $50,000, I’m sure.”

It’s a costly problem that is still a small price to pay when you consider how Sparks’ neighbor looks now. From the building’s roof, you can see the skeletal remains of what was once going to be a new 61-unit apartment building in downtown. It will instead now house a National Response Team with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), tasked with helping local investigators figure out what caused the fire.

“It’s a large scale fire and they have great experience and great resources in dealing with this type of stuff,” said Jasen Asay, spokesman for Salt Lake City Fire Department.

According to Asay, this is the first time an ATF team has been requested to assist with a fire investigation in Salt Lake City. Approximately 15-20 agents with the team landed on Tuesday, prepared to begin their investigation at the property early Wednesday morning.

ATF is known to get involved in cases of arson or explosions, including high profile incidents, such as the 9/11 plane crash at the Pentagon. However, officials refused to classify their visit to Utah as anything other than a routine investigation.

“We’re here to investigate the fire and determine exactly where it started and how it started. If it ever is determined to be something other than a natural cause or anything, we’ll then go into a criminal investigation,” said Special Agent Brad Beyersdorf, spokesman for ATF.

The special teams consists of engineers, chemists and certified fire investigators who are all expected to help expedite the investigation and assist local officials in determining a cause of the fire.

No timeline for their work has been provided.

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