A fire that recently ravaged College Terrace Apartments — a housing complex near UVSC campus — has temporarily displaced a number of students.
The incident marred what would otherwise have been a quiet Sunday afternoon, March 30. According to an Orem City Police report, a resident of the complex lit a candle and left the room unattended for a short time.
While away from the apartment, the tenant claimed to hear the alarm sounding, and, upon returning, found the room on fire. The fire had quickly spread to the side of the apartment, and then to the third and fourth floors of the building.
Rooms rapidly filled with smoke, trapping some students inside of their apartments. Firefighters quickly assisted to safety a student who was trapped on the balcony, and had to remove two other trapped people by truck ladder from a fourth floor window on the northwest side of the complex.
Police officers also assisted in the effort to bring students to safety by lowering people down from the fourth floor. No noted injuries were sustained other than those of two students who were treated for smoke inhalation. No tenants were hospitalized.
“The firefighters had my door open in my apartment so that they could have access to it. And by doing this had allowed it to fill full of smoke, which caused a lot of property damage,” said one student who had been in the same complex just a few doors down.
Facilities Management was cleaning up the charred remains of one of the apartments on Monday morning, but did not have much to say about the incident. “No more candles,” said Piper, a manager who was salvaging furniture. The burning of candles is prohibited by College Terrace Apartment rules.
Despite the bleak situation, some students expressed a more positive experience regarding the rescue efforts. “Management did a good job at making sure everyone had a place to stay and making sure everyone was taken care of,” said Nina Beck, a resident who was moved to another apartment due to fire damage sustained at hers.
John Stutznegger, a resident & student who had an apartment in the same complex, said, “I was in church when I was informed that my building was on fire, so my friends and I took off to investigate. I just wanted to get my stuff out because I had thousands of dollars worth of instruments inside. When I called my roommate, I was told that I couldn’t get in at all; so I just went back to church.”
Stutznegger also expressed how grateful he was for the quick response of those who came to the aid of the students. Other residents had also mentioned the owner being present, and how he showed comparatively little concern about the apartments; the bulk of his concern clearly focused on students.
According to the police report, damages caused by the fire were an estimated $200,000-300,000. Insurance adjusters were on site Tuesday, but had not determined a final figure for the degree of compensation.
Lena Barney, The director of properties for Pro-Star Management, stated that they wouldn’t know for sure on insurance for several days. She also mentioned that at least one student affected by the incident had renter’s insurance, which would cover damage or loss to personal belongings. Barney stated that she recommends students research and obtain renter’s insurance — a safety net that can cost as little as $10 a month.
In a press release, Barney commented, “College Terrace would like to thank Orem City Fire Department, Orem City inspection Department, Questar gas company, Rocky Mountain Power Company, the LDS Church, the American Red Cross, and all the great College Terrace tenants, as well as their family and friends, for their tremendous effort and cooperation, in response to the unfortunate fire we experienced. Through their united cooperation, tenants in nine of the 14 affected units were able to move back into their thoroughly cleaned and refurbished apartments.”