Fire Levels Utah Furniture Factory

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – A huge fire broke out Friday at a shop that makes furniture for Mormon Temples worldwide, leveling the business and threatening a nearby apartment complex.

The fire was reported shortly after 1 p.m. at Jeffrey Cobabe and Associates in downtown Salt Lake City. No one was hurt.

The blaze began in the ceiling and touched off at least three explosions that spread flames throughout the business.

“It’s a total tragedy,” said John Jordan, vice president of the company. “Within a half-minute, the entire south side of the building was in flames.”

About a dozen people were inside when the fire began, but all were able to escape safely before flames engulfed the building, Jordan said.

The fire was contained about two hours later. The cause was under investigation, but Jordan did not believe it was suspicious.

Firefighters were able to protect the apartment complex by dousing the building with water.

Thick, black smoke wafted across downtown as the fire raged, and the smell of burning wood hung in the air.

In addition to its work for Mormon temples, the company helped restore woodwork at the Governor’s Mansion after a fire in the early 1990s.

It was the second major fire in the city in eight days. A $5.5 million blaze on July 16 destroyed giant rolls of paper at a warehouse. The fire at the Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. was arson, investigators said.

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