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Grill suspected in fire that caused major damage to house
Flames shot from the attic of a burning house Friday in east Riverton. Authorities suspect a propane grill was involved in the start of the fire. Photo by Claire Peart

Grill suspected in fire that caused major damage to Riverton house

Jul 30, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

No one was injured in a structure fire that caused significant damage to a home at 801 N. N. 16th St. E.

After investigation, officials believe the 6 p.m. blaze began Friday near a propane grill that had been in use earlier that evening on the back deck of the split-level structure. The fire spread to the inside of the home, covering the entire back of the house and part of the garage and reaching through the roof to the attic space.

Riverton Volunteer Fire Department chief Mike Hutchison said the kitchen and dining room areas were heavily damaged, and the entire home was impacted by smoke and heat.

"It's not what you'd call a total loss, (but) it's going to take some work," he said.

One resident was home at the time and was able to escape unharmed. Hutchison said she was in front of the house near the garage and didn't know the fire had started until she was notified by a passerby.

"I can only assume she was probably in some sort of state of disbelief or shock when the person came up and said, 'Your house is on fire,'" Hutchison said.

The woman then entered the home and walked to the back door to confirm the report.

"She saw the whole back porch was involved in fire, then closed the back door and ran out of the house," Hutchison said.

The blaze spread inside shortly thereafter.

Hutchison said 15 firefighters arrived at the scene with an engine company, a truck company, a rescue company and a tanker. The crew made an interior attack through the front door in an attempt to knock some of the flames inside the home, but while they were inside Hutchison said the garage became more heavily involved in fire.

"The incident commander at the scene pulled them out of the house, and they started the exterior attack," Hutchison said. "It was knocked down pretty quickly - with a couple of minutes of arrival."

Firefighters remained on scene for two hours to ensure the fire was out.

Hutchison said adjacent homes were threatened during the blaze, but he didn't think they sustained much damage.

"There may have been some bubbled paint on the house to the south, but I wasn't sure if it was already like that," he said. "It could have been just peeling paint."

A large crowd from the neighborhood watched the activity from the street.

Hutchison isn't sure exactly what caused the fire, but he asked residents to be careful when using grills on wooden decks. In this case, he said the deck was covering a storage space that also contained flammable materials. There was a strong breeze at the time as well.

"It's one of those we might just not ever know," he said. "There was so much destruction that we can tell where it started, but we don't know how. ... There's nothing left of (the grill) to look at. It was completely melted into a puddle of metal."

It didn't appear that the propane tank had exploded, he added

"The propane cylinder was still intact," Hutchison said.

The woman and her family were able to find a place to stay.

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