Investigation ongoing in Milburn
‘dream home’ structure fire
By Rhett Wilkinsen
MILBURN—Fire marshals are still investigating the cause of a devastating fire that destroyed Seth and Jenna Wright’s dream house on the night of Aug. 6.
However, the owner, Seth Wright told the news media that arson wasn’t involved.
In an interview with The Pyramid, Seth was quoted as saying: “The state investigator came and determined that the fire wasn’t caused by arson, but were unable to determine the cause … The state marshal said ‘you’re not going to find anything in this.’ You could spend a lot of money and do a lot of fancy research, but he says that when it’s at this point there are no smoke patterns or nothing.”
Yet, Ryan Putman, who handles fire prevention and fire investigation for the Utah Department of Public Safety Fire Marshal, told the Sanpete Messenger that the investigation is still open.
Jenna did not return three requests for comment regarding the burning down of the house, which Fairview Fire Chief Nathan Miner said looks like a castle. It was being built brick-by-brick in an effort, Jenna says, to create a “little piece of England in Utah.”
Jenna has also not replied as of Tuesday morning to comments from Instagram users asking about the cause.
Jenna posted on Aug. 17 on Instagram about the fire. Seth got home around 9:15 p.m. the night of the fire. The first call from their neighbors came in at 9:50.
“We ran to the car not really comprehending what we’d just heard. ‘Your house is gone,’” Jenna said.
The Wrights drove with their emergency flashers the entirety of their trip to the house. Once they arrived, more than 50 people were stationed at the fence of the property, with at least 10 police cars, ambulances and fire trucks on-scene. Jenna said it felt like hundreds of others were viewing the scene “as the house slowly disappeared in the growing flames.”
“I don’t remember many of the details of that night, but I do know there was someone there to pick me up off the ground when I collapsed after getting out of the car. I do know that someone took my baby, and comforted him while I couldn’t,” Jenna said. “I know a neighbor and dear friend took my kids to her house, and another got all of the animals to safety.”
Jenna’s family, Seth’s family and some of their closest friends were there at midnight and until 6 a.m., providing help as they “watched all the embers slowly float to the sky.”
“I think our lives will forever be described in moments of ‘before the fire,’ and ‘after the fire,’” Jenna wrote.
Jenna posted on Aug. 7 to the same social media platform: “’Let every heartbreak, and every scar, be a picture that reminds you – who has carried you this far
Cause love sees farther than you ever could
In this moment heaven’s working … everything for your good. ….
Cause your story’s far from over
And your journey’s just begun.’
Just another chapter … and one day when it’s all a distant memory, I hope it all makes sense. Right now … it just hurts.”
When posting photos of the house burning, Jenna reported that her family was OK, their animals were safe and everyone was accounted for.
“It could have been so much worse … Our hearts are broken … and we are in shock. But we believe in a God with a plan much bigger than our own,” Jenna wrote. “And he will make beauty of these ashes.”
“The owner” of the house said that its value would have been $2.5 million when finished, said Putman, who said that the fire marshal’s office got “multiple calls” on the fire.
By the time the Indianola fire department got to the scene, bringing its brush truck, engine and tender, the house was “fully engulfed” and a defensive perimeter was built around the structure to keep the fire from spreading, Indianola Fire Chief Kurtis Zobell said.
“We’re all volunteers,” Zobell said. “[We] have to leave home, gear up and get to the scene. It can be 20 to 30 minutes before we get on the scene. A fire will double every minute after it’s started.”
The Fairview fire department arrived on scene about 20 minutes after a page went out about the fire.
“It takes us a few minutes to get to the station and then [get out],” Miner said.
Miner said “the roof had already fallen in, so the structure at that point was a total loss to begin with.”
Miner’s biggest concern was not so much the structure as much as the fire spreading to neighboring fields. That led his department to go into a “defensive mode” to try to keep from starting more fires.
“We succeeded in that objective,” Miner said, noting “great support” from the Indianola and Mount Pleasant fire departments. “That single structure was the only structure lost.”
One of many fires
The burning of the Wright’s house is one of many recently in the area. Zobell’s department has seen eight incidents in a recent span of a week-and-a-half “or so,” Zobell said. Those have been caused by dragging chains, burning things when it is illegal and other factors.
And it won’t end relatively soon.
“The fire season will extend all the way to the end of October, if not beyond that,” Zobell said.
Utah State Fire Marshal Coy Porter did not respond to two requests for comment. Utah Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Ted Black claimed he was in a meeting and said to call back an hour later. When the Messenger called back an hour later, Black hung up on the newspaper. Later, Putman called.