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Westminster community adjusts as Sugar House fire impacts the neighborhood

Westminster College residential students awoke to smokey air and charred debris on campus Wednesday morning after a fire erupted Tuesday night at 2188 Highland Dr., an under-construction building in Sugar House.

The fire burned half a mile from campus, and hundreds of nearby residents were displaced, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, including Westminster art history professor Stephanie Hohlios.

“The first I heard of [the fire] was just the fire alarm,” Hohlios said. “I have an 11-month-old baby […] as well as a little dog and husband, so we just tried to just make sure everyone was warm and get out the door.”

Hohlios said her apartment is located across the street from the damaged building and faces away from the now-burned construction site. Hohlios said these two factors enabled her to return to her apartment at 5 p.m. Wednesday. 

“I live in one of the apartments that was safe, so I’m very lucky that way,” Hohlios said. “In apartments that face the construction site where the fire was, the heat was so hot that some of the windows blew out.”

Sugar House residents and onlookers gather outside at 12:20 a.m. Wednesday after a fire erupted Tuesday night at 2188 Highland Dr., an under-construction building in Sugar House, located half a mile from Westminster College campus. “I live in one of the apartments that was safe, so I’m very lucky that way,” said Stephanie Hohlios, a Westminster art history professor and Sugar House resident temporarily displaced by the fire. “In apartments that face the construction site where the fire was, the heat was so hot that some of the windows blew out.” Photo courtesy of Michael Hohlios. Image description: A dozen people stand outside as flames and smoke from an apartment building fire fill the night sky.

Evacuations remain in effect for residents of Sugarmont and Vue, two neighboring apartment complexes, “in the direct vicinity of the demolition zone,” as of 10:28 a.m. Thursday, according to SLC.gov Fire Department updates

President Beth Dobkin said the college is aware of residents in the area who are associated with Westminster and were impacted by the fire. 

“We have a few students who are living in an adjacent building and a staff member, and we’re looking to put them on campus until their building is available to them,” said Dean of Students Glenn Smith, in an email sent to President Dobkin, administrators and faculty.

Director of Residence Life Jess Sweitzer will work to find accommodations for those affected by the fire, according to President Dobkin. 

“I trust the college to take any actions that are necessary [to help],” said Stephanie Hohlios, a Westminster art history professor and Sugar House resident temporarily displaced by the fire. “I really hope that any other students or staff or faculty that were also living in the building are as lucky in [being safe] as I was.”

As of 4:32 p.m. Thursday, there are no changes to the situation at the fire site, and more information will be available after the structure is reassessed Friday morning, according to SLC.gov Fire Department updates.

A fire official and investigator discuss amidst a smoking under-construction building on Wednesday morning after a fire erupted Tuesday night at 2188 Highland Dr., located half a mile from Westminster College campus. Smoke could be seen and smelled, and debris from the fire “did impact campus,” according to a Safety email sent to the Westminster community on Wednesday morning. Photo courtesy of Devin Logan. Image description: A fire official and investigator talk while smoke emanates from an under-construction building.

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Zidia Gibson is a junior communication major and a film studies minor with a love for telling stories. She is proud to be the coordinator for the Asian American and Pacific Islander Life program on campus and to write for The Honorable Mention. She loves petting any cat she sees, hiking the valley and rock climbing with friends, playing video games, and visiting local coffee shops every other day

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