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Ogden fire, second involving Elite Craft Homes project, focus of probe

By Tim Vandenack - | Aug 23, 2022

Dennis Montgomery, Special to the Standard-Examiner

An apartment building taking shape at 34th Street and Washington Boulevard, the site of the old Dee's Restaurant, burned down in a fire in the early morning hours of Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. The photo shows the aftermath on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022.

OGDEN — For 20-plus years, Jerry Preston, president of Elite Craft Homes, managed to avoid major fire disasters in the projects his firm helped develop.

Last year, though, a fire destroyed an Elite Craft Homes apartment complex taking shape in the 300 block of 28th Street. Then early last Saturday, disaster struck again, a fire destroying a second Elite apartment project under construction at 3378 Washington Blvd., about a mile away.

Preston lamented the turn of events Monday, but doesn’t have much more information on the new incident. He met with representatives from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, but they didn’t offer many details as the probe into the dramatic blaze continues. Ogden Fire Department officials, also taking part in the investigation, also haven’t said much.

“Basically we can’t enter the site for a week, so we know nothing,” Preston said. The fire lit up Washington Boulevard in the early morning hours Saturday, turning the structure — incomplete and mainly just the framing of the building at the time — into charred embers.

On Tuesday afternoon, the fire department asked for the public’s help in the investigation. Anyone who has information about the fire is asked to call the department’s non-emergency number, 801 395-8221.

Photo supplied, Jonathan Chen

A fire completely engulfed an under-construction apartment building in the 3400 block of Washington Boulevard on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022.

Mike Slater, deputy fire chief, said Tuesday that efforts were focused on examining the debris. Officials don’t want to overlook any potential clues.

“We’re still digging through the rubble,” he said. “You can imagine the amount of debris they have to remove. It can go at a snail’s pace and they are knee deep in it.”

Slater also said there’s no link that he knows of with the fire last year on 28th Street but that investigators will look at every possibility.

Though the official probe continues, Preston is leery about the potential cause.

The three-story structure destroyed on Saturday, to house 28 units once complete, hadn’t yet been connected to electricity, water or natural gas, he said, prompting his suspicions. “Our assumption is arson again,” he said, emphasizing that officials haven’t yet reported the possible cause.

Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner

The Elite Craft Homes site in the 300 block of 28th Street in Ogden, photographed Monday, Aug. 22, 2022. The apartment building Elite was building on the site was destroyed in a fire in 2021 but the firm plans to build anew on the location.

Fire officials suspect homeless people were behind the June 28-29, 2021, blaze that destroyed the four-story Elite project on 28th Street just west of Washington Boulevard, also just wood framing at the time. But an Ogden Fire Department rep told the Standard-Examiner last December that without solid leads, the precise cause couldn’t be confirmed.

The site of Saturday’s fire, the 0.57-acre parcel on the northeast corner of 34th Street and Washington, hadn’t been fenced off from the public. Last Saturday, those efforts were to have started, according to Preston, before the fire destroyed the building.

Some signs and landscaping on adjoining parcels also sustained damage, but no other buildings were impacted. In the 2021 fire, three homes west of the 28th Street building were destroyed.

The parcels containing the three homes and building destroyed last year are still vacant, but Elite plans to rebuild on its property at the location. As of Monday, what appeared to be street curbing had been installed at the 28th Street location, but the land was largely clear.

Reporter Mark Shenefelt contributed to this story.

Dennis Montgomery, Special to the Standard-Examiner

The Aug. 14, 2022, photo shows an apartment building taking shape on the northeast corner of 34th Street and Washington Boulevard. It was destroyed in a blaze on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022.


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