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Fire in Richfield, Utah


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Posted 24 minutes ago on KUTV: Massive flames erupt as crews extinguish fire at motel in Richfield

Quote

RICHFIELD, Utah (KUTV) — Fire officials were on the scene of a motel in Sevier County after a massive fire erupted from the building.

They said the Motel 6 on Main Street at 600 South in Richfield was in operation at the time of the fire.

Injuries were not immediately known.

Officials asked that people stay away from the scene and give first responders space to work. Main Street was closed in both directions while firefighters worked.

Smoke and flames could be seen coming from the building Monday evening. It was not known right away what the cause was.

Additional information was not initially shared.

A few notes:

1. I found out about this from a client, who is the owner of the facility.  Apparently the fire started about an hour or so ago.  So far no serious injuries have been reported (to my knowledge).

2. My client is driving down there right now from Salt Lake.

3. The facility is not a motel.  It has been renovated and converted into an apartment complex for people with subsidized housing needs.

4. The facility looks to be a total loss, which will be pretty tough for the tenants, as this was one of the very few places in the county that was within financial reach of our tenants.

5. There isn't much for me to do at the moment (though tomorrow will likely be quite busy).  

6. This facility has been quite the rollercoaster for my client, who has had to fight the City tooth and nail to get the facility up and running to provide affordable housing (one of the very few such options in Sevier County).  Lots of drama.  My client applied for a business license, which the City withheld, then charged him criminally for . . . running a business without a license.  Then the City Council altered the Richfield City Code to prohibit the property from being used to provide housing (as a zoning matter).  This resulted in a showdown several months ago between the City Council and the tenants, most of whom showed up at a City Council meeting to express their views on the matter.  The city eventually relented, in a sense.  They kept the revised City Code intact, but then re-zoned the property as "residential," which solved most of the legal problems (I hope).  We were just on the cusp of finalizing all these matters, only to have the facility burn down.

7. Not quite content with just twiddling my thumbs, I used the "LDS Meetinghouse Locator" and looked up several wards in Richfield and began calling their bishops.  On the third try I got a hold of one of them.  I asked him if he was aware of the fire at the facility, and he advised that he and other bishops, EQPs, RSPs, stake leaders, etc., have already been coordinating to provide blankets, food, etc.  He also said there is a nearby motel that is taking in some of our tenants, and that Richfield is opening up a civic building so the remaining tenants will have a place to sleep for the time being.  In other words, the civil authorities seem to be doing their jobs well, and the local units of the Church and the local members immediately started coordinating relief and assistance efforts, apparently within minutes of the news getting out.  Kudos to them.

8. This is going to be a very difficult thing for the tenants.  Single parent families, disabled vets, women fleeing DV situations, people with substance abuse issues, etc. are all beneficiaries of Utah's "Housing First" philosophy.  However, in practice this framework is pretty diluted outside of the major population centers (Richfield has a population of 8,000 or so, and there are only about 22K in all of Sevier County).  I'm not sure where these people will go.

Thanks,

-Smac

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3 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Posted 24 minutes ago on KUTV: Massive flames erupt as crews extinguish fire at motel in Richfield

A few notes:

1. I found out about this from a client, who is the owner of the facility.  Apparently the fire started about an hour or so ago.  So far no serious injuries have been reported (to my knowledge).

2. My client is driving down there right now from Salt Lake.

3. The facility is not a motel.  It has been renovated and converted into an apartment complex for people with subsidized housing needs.

4. The facility looks to be a total loss, which will be pretty tough for the tenants, as this was one of the very few places in the county that was within financial reach of our tenants.

5. There isn't much for me to do at the moment (though tomorrow will likely be quite busy).  

6. This facility has been quite the rollercoaster for my client, who has had to fight the City tooth and nail to get the facility up and running to provide affordable housing (one of the very few such options in Sevier County).  Lots of drama.  My client applied for a business license, which the City withheld, then charged him criminally for . . . running a business without a license.  Then the City Council altered the Richfield City Code to prohibit the property from being used to provide housing (as a zoning matter).  This resulted in a showdown several months ago between the City Council and the tenants, most of whom showed up at a City Council meeting to express their views on the matter.  The city eventually relented, in a sense.  They kept the revised City Code intact, but then re-zoned the property as "residential," which solved most of the legal problems (I hope).  We were just on the cusp of finalizing all these matters, only to have the facility burn down.

7. Not quite content with just twiddling my thumbs, I used the "LDS Meetinghouse Locator" and looked up several wards in Richfield and began calling their bishops.  On the third try I got a hold of one of them.  I asked him if he was aware of the fire at the facility, and he advised that he and other bishops, EQPs, RSPs, stake leaders, etc., have already been coordinating to provide blankets, food, etc.  He also said there is a nearby motel that is taking in some of our tenants, and that Richfield is opening up a civic building so the remaining tenants will have a place to sleep for the time being.  In other words, the civil authorities seem to be doing their jobs well, and the local units of the Church and the local members immediately started coordinating relief and assistance efforts, apparently within minutes of the news getting out.  Kudos to them.

8. This is going to be a very difficult thing for the tenants.  Single parent families, disabled vets, women fleeing DV situations, people with substance abuse issues, etc. are all beneficiaries of Utah's "Housing First" philosophy.  However, in practice this framework is pretty diluted outside of the major population centers (Richfield has a population of 8,000 or so, and there are only about 22K in all of Sevier County).  I'm not sure where these people will go.

Thanks,

-Smac

Call the Red Cross. They can provide assistance. Each unit may be provided some immediate assistance. They can staff/run a shelter as the need exists. They will have a case opened and help coordinate resources. 

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13 hours ago, smac97 said:

4. The facility looks to be a total loss, which will be pretty tough for the tenants, as this was one of the very few places in the county that was within financial reach of our tenants.

“our tenants”?

Edit: The mayor is also coming off as quite disingenuous with his ‘this is what we were worried would happen’.

Edited by The Nehor
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1 minute ago, The Nehor said:
Quote

The facility looks to be a total loss, which will be pretty tough for the tenants, as this was one of the very few places in the county that was within financial reach of our tenants.

“our tenants”?

I am, in a loose and informal sense, "in house counsel" for this client.  

There as an article about this property (and my client) on KSL last week: How an affordable housing property in Richfield is serving as a beacon of hope

Lots of people express empathy for the poor, for people struggling with mental health or substance abuse problems, etc.  My client chose to do more than that.  He is taking run-down motel properties and converting them into affordable housing.  For example, there is a former Ramada Inn at the intersection of North Temple and Redwood Road in SLC that we are currently renovating to turn into what will be something like 180 studio apartments.  Very small, but each will have a kitchenette and a bathroom, and they qualify as housing (meaning the folks who need them can apply for rent assistance).  

From the above article:

Quote

Warburton was awarded $1 million to go toward Ville 647 from the $55 million the 2022 Utah Legislature set aside for the Office of Homeless Services affordable housing projects.

The money will fund upgrades at Ville 647 that will ensure the building has the proper safety measures needed for people to live there, including things like kitchenettes, fire suppression and parking.

It will also be used for cosmetic improvements, such as a fence around the property, new landscaping and building renovations as well as a green space or playground of some type.

"Economically, you can't do this another way," Warburton told the Richfield Reaper. "If we were to try to take $1 million and try to build something for this population in Richfield, for a million dollars, we could probably build a four-plex. We'd never be able to make an impact on the amount of need that is there."

I think he's right here.  $1M could fund a four-plex.  Instead, he was using this grant to renovate and improve the Motel 6 in Richfield, which had 39 apartments.  

All gone now.  I'm pretty bummed.  I met a lot of these people back in March when my client and I attended a City Council meeting with them (see the article).

Thanks,

-Smac

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Thanks for sharing, smac. The personal details are what makes this tragedy real and makes the efforts of your client admirable. 
 

Added:  really dislike spellcheck sometimes.  It makes me look better when it gets stuff right, but it makes it much harder to guess what I really meant when it gets it wrong. 

Edited by Calm
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22 hours ago, Calm said:

Any hint it is arson?  Really hope not. 
 

Rotten timing going into the holidays, such cold weather. 

Apparently not.  Just an accident (initial report was a tenant burning incense in her room).

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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I just read of a household fire due to a LED candle’s faulty battery.  Luckily it was spotted and put out quickly so that only one room was totaled from smoke damage, but just shows even little things that are supposed to be safe can go wrong.

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10 hours ago, The Nehor said:

“our tenants”?

Edit: The mayor is also coming off as quite disingenuous with his ‘this is what we were worried would happen’.

Yeah, the behavior of the Powers-that-Be has been pretty . . . uneven:

  • 1. The city manager sat on my client's application for a business license for months.
  • 2. The city attorney ignored numerous requests from me for clarification on what my client needed to do to get a business license.
  • 3. The chief of police called my client a "slumlord," and expressed a lot of frustration with having police calls to the facility.  A lot of NIMBYism and such.
  • 4. The county attorney filed criminal charges against my client for not having a business license (and the chief of police told me several different times that he could - and would - charge my client every day he operated the facility without a license).
  • 5. After the city spent months refusing to issue the business license or explain what my client needed to do to get one, the City Council revised the city code to essentially make my client's business model impossible.
  • 6. Only after A) we threatened a civil rights lawsuit (an outfit in DC offered to file it for us), B) we had a very contentious meeting with the City Council, and C) we were on the cusp of evicting all of our tenants (to comply with the revised city code) did the mayor relent and express a willingness to work with my client.  The workaround was for the city to re-zone the property to make it residential rather than commercial.  This was finalized just a few weeks ago.  

I've spent more than two years representing this guy and handling his evictions.  Many of these are . . . messy.  This sort of housing is a sort of "last chance" thing before homelessness and shelters.  A lot of these folks have mental health issues, chronic physical health problems, substance abuse, long-term behavioral dysfunctions, DV problems, and so on. 

My client's generalized philosophy incorporates two primary "Bright Line Rules": 1) no violence or threats of violence, and 2) no drugs/smoking on site.  The evictions I do can be difficult, as "the street" may well be their next stop.  My client bends over backwards to work out nonpayment of rent issues (many tenants are receiving rental assistance, so we work with various state and charitable outfits to sort out such things), but violence or on-site drug use is not tolerated.  Pretty much everything else we let slide. 

And the results are, in the main, pretty good.  Larger cities are actually quite pleased with what my client is doing, as social workers and such can spend quite a bit more time working with their clients when they are going door to door rather than driving all over the county.

Anyway, those poor folks in Richfield are up a creek without a paddle, I fear.  

Thanks,

-Smac

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