Fairview man dies as
fire engulfs camp trailer
By Robert Stevens
Oct. 12, 2017
Oxygen believed to accelerate fire, trailer destroyed within minutes
FAIRVIEW—A Fairview man died last week in the fire that burned his camp trailer to the ground within minutes and then spread to another trailer nearby.
Gary Danner of Fairview died on Thursday, Oct. 5 when his camp trailer was engulfed in flames, which were hotter and more dangerous due to the presence of an oxygen machine and accompanying tank.
The victim’s son, Bryan, who lives in a different trailer in the same park, was forced to look on helplessly as flames engulfed his father’s trailer.
Based on everything the Messenger was able to learn, it was the first fire death in 20 years. Sanpete County Sheriff Brian Nielson remembered a death years ago in Ephraim but said it was so long ago it would be difficult to look up the date.
According to Chief Nathan Miner of the Fairview Fire Department, who has been fighting fires for 19 years and been Fairview fire chief for seven, a 911 call came in at about 8:30 p.m. about fire coming from a camp trailer at a trailer park located at 384 N. Milburn Road.
“When we first arrived, the camp trailer was fully engulfed, and the fire had already spread to the adjacent mobile home,” Miner said.
“The camp trailer was already falling to pieces at that time, so the first priority was stopping the fire that had spread to the other home. Within 5 minutes of arrival, the fire was totally under control.”
Miner says the first fire engine arrived roughly 8 minutes after the call came in, but even if firefighters had arrived in 3 minutes, there would have been no saving Danner.
“When the safety valve went off on the oxygen tank, it accelerated the fire and made it far more intense,” he said.
Miner said a Wasatch Front media report that the fire had been caused by Danner smoking in bed next to the oxygen machine was an unconfirmed “theory,” and the department won’t know the cause until a state fire marshal investigation is completed in about a week.
Danner’s son, Bryan, said he talked to his father just minutes before the fire erupted. He said his dad had not been smoking in the trailer that night.
Bryan said he saw smoke coming out of his father’s trailer. When he opened the door, a back draft shot searing flames out at him, rendering him unable to move further into the cramped, smoke-filled trailer.
As the flames continued to burn hotter and higher, Bryan says he realized there was nothing he could do to stop them, so he and some neighbors scrambled to move surrounding vehicles and nearby propane tanks in an effort to prevent a worse situation until the fire department arrived.
“I watched the thing go up,” Bryan said. “There were flames shooting two and three times as high as the houses…We literally heard people could see the flames shooting into the sky from Mt. Pleasant.”
Although the source of ignition is still unconfirmed, Miner says any kind of open flame near an oxygen machine can cause a tragedy.
Medical professionals from Sanpete Valley Hospital said even a perfectly functioning oxygen system can turn deadly when exposed to fire.
According to Miner, two other factors that contributed to a dangerous situation were trailers too close to each other and the fact that neither trailer that caught fire was equipped with a smoke detector.
A smoke detector, Miner said, can mean the difference between life and death, no matter if you are in a camp trailer or a large house.
“It is very rare that anyone dies by burning up,” Miner says. “Carbon monoxide poisoning (from smoke) is usually the killer.” A smoke detector can alert occupants to the presence of smoke and fumes so they get out of the structure in time.
Among the Fairview and Mt. Pleasant fire departments, EMTs from the North Sanpete Ambulance Association, Fairview police and the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office, more than 25 emergency responders were on the scene, Miner said.
A large crowd also gathered along the perimeter of the incident as fire fighters extinguished the fire.