Historic Hooper home lost in house fire

Aug 10 2012 - 5:53am

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A 120-year-old home containing an antique tractor, tools and a workshop were destroyed by fire late Wednesday night in Hooper. Fire officials suspect a compost pile spontaneously combusted sparking the blaze. (SCOTT SCHWEBKE/Standard-Examiner)
A 120-year-old home containing an antique tractor, tools and a workshop were destroyed by fire late Wednesday night in Hooper. Fire officials suspect a compost pile spontaneously combusted sparking the blaze. (SCOTT SCHWEBKE/Standard-Examiner)
A 120-year-old home containing an antique tractor, tools and a workshop were destroyed by fire late Wednesday night in Hooper. Fire officials suspect a compost pile spontaneously combusted sparking the blaze. (SCOTT SCHWEBKE/Standard-Examiner)
A 120-year-old home containing an antique tractor, tools and a workshop were destroyed by fire late Wednesday night in Hooper. Fire officials suspect a compost pile spontaneously combusted sparking the blaze. (SCOTT SCHWEBKE/Standard-Examiner)
A 120-year-old home containing an antique tractor, tools and a workshop were destroyed by fire late Wednesday night in Hooper. Fire officials suspect a compost pile spontaneously combusted sparking the blaze. (SCOTT SCHWEBKE/Standard-Examiner)
A 120-year-old home containing an antique tractor, tools and a workshop were destroyed by fire late Wednesday night in Hooper. Fire officials suspect a compost pile spontaneously combusted sparking the blaze. (SCOTT SCHWEBKE/Standard-Examiner)
A 120-year-old home containing an antique tractor, tools and a workshop were destroyed by fire late Wednesday night in Hooper. Fire officials suspect a compost pile spontaneously combusted sparking the blaze. (SCOTT SCHWEBKE/Standard-Examiner)
A 120-year-old home containing an antique tractor, tools and a workshop were destroyed by fire late Wednesday night in Hooper. Fire officials suspect a compost pile spontaneously combusted sparking the blaze. (SCOTT SCHWEBKE/Standard-Examiner)

HOOPER -- Debbie Dorn is deathly afraid of fire.

But when a massive blaze broke out on her property in Hooper late Wednesday night and destroyed a 120-year-old house and workshop, she did the only thing possible.

She grabbed her iPhone and began shooting video as flames consumed the home built by her great-grandfather, who was one of Hooper's first settlers.

"My memories are in my heart now," Dorn, 54, who lives at 6531 W. 5500 South, said Thursday morning, sitting a few feet from the ruins of the wood-frame house after a sleepless night. "They (the memories) are going to have to stay there always because the house, it's gone."

The blaze apparently started around 9:45 p.m. in a compost pile outside the workshop and then spread to the house, said Ted Black, fire marshal for the Weber Fire District. Fire officials believe hot weather on Wednesday contributed to spontaneous combustion in the compost pile, which had sat undisturbed for two years.

The home, which was destroyed, had been used for storage and is about 15 feet from the residence of Dorn and her husband, Joe.

Dorn said the home was built by her great-grandfather William Garner, who was one of Hooper's first residents and assigned to homestead the property by Brigham Young, the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Dorn said her grandparents, Roy and Florence Garner, took ownership of the 1,000-square-foot home in the 1940s. They raised 13 children in the three-bedroom dwelling.

Dorn inherited the home in 1995. It was used for several years to store old tools such as a two-man saw and antique farm equipment, all of which were destroyed in the fire.

The home is adjacent to the workshop, which doubled as a garage and was also demolished in the blaze.

Dorn said she was inside her home around 9:50 p.m. Wednesday when a neighbor knocked on her door and told her the shop was on fire.

"It looked like hell," said Dorn, who called 911.

Fire engines arrived quickly, but time seemed to slow to a snail's pace while Dorn waited for help.

"It was only five minutes but it seemed like five hours," she said.

Fire crews connected hoses to a water hydrant a "country block" from the house and workshop, Dorn said.

She shot video with her smart phone, standing about 15 feet from the fire, while large embers floated her way and a fifth-wheel vehicle protected her residence from flames.

"The fifth-wheel saved my house," said Dorn, adding that the only damage to her residence was some melted siding.

Dorn and her husband, who used a hose to wet down a field behind the residence, were ready to grab belongings and flee at a moment's notice.

"I was more concerned about keeping an eye on my dogs and was ready to go at any time," she said.

Dorn said despite a fear of fire, the adrenaline rush kept her from leaving, adding she won't soon forget the dangerous situation.

"It was my worst nightmare."

More than 15 firefighters from Weber Fire District, Riverdale Fire Department and Roy Fire Department responded. They remained at the scene until 8 a.m. Thursday to monitor hot spots.

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