By Anthony D. Ávila
Cassandra Tomlin/Arizona Daily Wildcat
TFD firefighters extinguish flames consuming a structure near East University Boulevard and North Fourth Avenue on Saturday. TFD said the fire is an apparent act of arson, but police have no suspects.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, November 7, 2005
A fire broke out late Saturday morning in a storage unit near East University Boulevard and North Fourth Avenue, giving neighboring students a scare.
No one was injured in the fire, but it left $80,000 in damages to the barnlike structure, which appeared to have been used as a photo lab, said Capt. Paul McDonough, a Tucson Fire Department spokesman. TFD suspects arson.
Police have no suspects but are investigating the case, McDonough said.
Chris Garza, a regional development senior, said he was making breakfast when he heard someone yelling in the alley next to his house.
When Garza saw the flames peaking over the fence of his backyard, he quickly jumped on the roof of his shed and sprayed the fire with a garden hose, he said.
“A little breeze had kicked (the fire) up and it started coming toward us. It probably would have jumped (to our backyard) in three more minutes,” said Garza, pointing to singed leaves in his backyard.
Fourteen units of 42 TFD firefighters were dispatched at 12:07 p.m. and had controlled the fire by 12:37 p.m., though it was probably burning for a while before they arrived, McDonough said.
Flames reached more than 30 feet above the structure, which damaged power lines and could have spread to nearby homes, McDonough said.
Chris Patmont, a sociology junior and Garza’s roommate, said he felt intense heat when he ran outside to a move a friend’s truck that was parked near the fire.
“You could feel it as soon as you stepped outside,” Patmont said. “I thought, ‘This is for real.’”
Garza said he didn’t know who started the fire, though he saw a “transient-type” man who stood near the fire before walking off.
Poppy Salmon, a 36-year-old Web designer who lives in the house adjacent to the fire, said she was inside her home when the front window shattered from the heat.
Salmon said she ran inside to rescue her dog after seeing smoke on her way home from the store, but she made it out OK.
“I’m just shaken,” Salmon said.
Heat from the fire blew 25 feet across the alley to melt plastic coverings, burn parts of the house frame and crack glass that covered the gas meters outside of Salmon’s house.
But the fire department shut off all utilities when they arrived to prevent any gas or electrical hazards.
Police blocked off East University Boulevard between North Fourth and North Fifth avenues for several hours, but McDonough said he did not think it affected Homecoming traffic.