PROVO, Utah (ABC4 News) – Investigators announced criminal charges in connection with a fire in Provo that claimed the life of a Utah woman.
Provo Fire & Rescue held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to announce the cause and circumstances of the fire on June 1, 2018.
Crews were dispatched to a home at 1455 South State Street around 4:45 a.m. Provo police units were first on scene and reported the building was fully involved.
When firefighters arrived, a witness told them there was a person likely still in the building.
The witness had been talking to the woman still inside the structure to help her escape. Donna Clegg, 48, never got out and died in the fire.
Officials said charges stem from an ongoing zoning case that began 2012. The Provo Zoning Enforcement Division had been in contact with the property owner and property manager about the building because it was not “tenable for a dwelling unit.”
There had been ongoing communication between city officials and the property owner about bringing the building up to code, but that never happened.
Fire investigators said there were multiple issues with the structure that led them to submit charges to the Utah County attorney.
According to the lead investigator Battalion Chief Lynn Schofield, there were no smoke alarms in the building, it had multiple blocked or inaccessible exists, and it was under non-permitted use because it was designed as a commercial office. The cause of the fire was eventually ruled accidental.
Kelly Ellis, of Draper, and Homer Workman, of Mountain Green, will be summoned to appear in court on the following charges: manslaughter/negligent homicide for the death of Donna Clegg, reckless endangerment, lack of a rental dwelling license and failure to meet minimum health/ safety requirements as well as other zoning violations.
“Property ownership and property management of rental dwellings in the city and in the state come with great responsibility. Fire and life safety requirements, zoning requirements and rental licensing are essential to conduct business in this way… In this particular case, none of those things were adhered to,” said Jim Miguel, Fire Chief of Provo Fire & Rescue.
Donna’s family who was present at the news conference issued a statement through a family spokesperson:
“Donna was a loving mother, grandmother, sister, and friend. She will be missed by many. Donna would give the shirt off her to back to anyone in need. Due to the tragic event, she is missing out on her grandchildren and her soon-to-be grandchild grow. Our family hopes these charges will bring answers and help with closure. With the holidays upon us, there will be many firsts without her. She will be very missed these days. We have comfort in knowing she would like us to live on as she loved the holidays.”