WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (ABC 4 News) - What took so long to get water from the hydrant? That's the question swirling around a West Valley neighborhood after a weekend house fire.
“We were on this couching, watching television,” says Alan Marshall. Until Saturday evening at about 6:00 he had lived in this century old house his entire life.
“My parents lived here before me,” he says, beginning to show emotion for the first time since the incident. “My grandparents bought this house and lived in it before them.”
Now the house that was home to three generations of the Marshall family is a gutted shell of a structure, blackened and soaked inside.
Marshall says he’s grateful he and his four children got out unharmed but he says he can’t even begin to explain the sense of loss as he surveys the damage. Except for a delay getting water from a hydrant across the street to the fire, it might have been saved, or at least spared such damage.
Marshall and his four children were watching television Saturday evening when a passer-by banged on the door to tell them the garage was on fire.
“I got the kids out immediately, through the front door, and I went around and tried to fight the fire with a garden hose," he says.
Marshall quickly gave up and backed away, watching the fire climb the trees between his garage and his house, then leap to the roof of the home.
Marshall estimates the first team of West Valley firefighters arrived about one later.
"There was a truck just down the street. They'd seen the smoke and they responded themselves without a 9-1-1 dispatch," he says.
A 300 gallon tanker truck pulled up in front of Marshall’s house and the five-person crew immediately went into rapid response mode.
"They were here far ahead of the curve and kind of alone at that time," says West Valley Fire Battalion Chief Bob Fitzgerald.
"There was a lot of fire in the garage area, getting up into the trees and moving into the house," he says, explaining how quickly the fire had spread even before the first team had arrived.
300 gallons of water didn’t last long. Within minutes, support crews were on scene, looking for a new source.
“Our crews were blocked from that hydrant,” says Fitzgerald, pointing across five lanes of heavy traffic moving along 3600 West through West Valley City.
Witnesses at the scene confirm firefighters’ post event report – stalled traffic in the roadway prevented them from getting to the closest hydrant.
Mike Harper was there.
“There were cars parked from the other side of that church building,” he says, motioning northward to a spot more than 100 yards away, “to about a hundred yards down the street, that way.”
Harper says he and a few other bystanders actually tried to do some traffic control.
“You had to kind of get their attention and yell at them, ‘You gotta move!’" he says.
Harper and two other witnesses who didn’t want ABC 4 to use their names confirm Chief Fitzgerald’s report – standing traffic cost firefighters an estimated ten minutes of critical time, slowing them from dousing the flames across the street, and possibly costing the Marshall family their home.