In the late afternoon of Saturday March 22, Kelly Pentz, an employee of Polaris, went into the shop behind the Polaris Dealership and Wilkinson Construction offices, where he noticed water on the floor coming from the broiler room. This unusual sight was accompanied by the smell of smoke. He quickly surveyed the boiler room where there were no apparent flames.
As Pentz went upstairs, he found the source of the smoke and began to dowse the flames with a fire extinguisher. He was then joined by TJ McMillan and Garrett Kippen, who also work for Polaris.
The three worked to extinguish the fire with a garden hose from the shop but it became apparent that it was too big for them so they backed out of the dangerous situation. By this time another person in the area called 911 at approximately 4:44 p.m.
Fire Chief Dave Rich and Jeremy Barker were first to respond and began to shoot water onto the shop where flames were overtaking the mezzanine.
Brothers Shaun and Tyler Waller arrived at the burning building and attempted to offensively fight the fire by going inside. Once inside, smoke made visibility very limited and flames nearly surrounded the firefighters. They kept fighting the flames back but the situation became too dangerous and they had to retreat. From that point on the entire fire crew took a defensive stance at fighting the fire aiming to protect surrounding structures.
Within five minutes of his arrival, Rich had called for a ladder truck which was brought by four South Ogden Firefighters. Weber County also brought a three man crew and an engine to help fight the blaze. They joined 15 firefighters from Morgan and three from Mountain Green.
The firefighters joined forces and worked for over an hour and a half before they began to “feel somewhat comfortable” according to Rich.
While the trained firefighters worked cohesively, Rich obersved the Wilkinson family and employees working in unison. “Such an amazing amount of coordination by them,” Rich said. Wilkinsons, as well as others who came to help, worked with the firefighters to move hoses to areas where they were needed. Rich said he would tell either John, Dan or Stew about an area that needed some extra hands and then they would round up whatever help was needed.
When Wilkinsons first arrived, they worked to move as much as they could from the burning shop. They removed dump trucks, a trailer house, and more as the fire burned. But eventually they had to back out and leave the area. When Audrey (Wilkinson) Peterson arrived and saw the billowing black smoke, she knew there was a problem but she felt it could be controlled. She was shocked how quickly it changed into something that was out of control.
The group also worked to clear out the show room and other areas that were threatened by the inferno. Most of the employees, as well as neighbors, came to help.
“I think it was really neat how people were willing to help,” Peterson said of the help they received. “People were amazing!”
“We are overwhelmed with the support,” Johnny Wilkinson stated also very appreciative of the help they received. He said that because of all of the help they received, “It makes you want to be the guy that shows up and helps (other people) when needed.”
They cleared out the showroom and offices up front which luckily were not impacted by the fire. The crew of employees and volunteers who showed up to help, moved everything out quickly placing it outside of the building.
Johnny received a call from a fireman stating he found a computer in the back seat of his car and believed it belonged to them. They laughed about all of the places they stowed valuables in the heat of the moment.
News in Morgan travels as fast as fire and soon 100 South was filled with cars and groups of people watching the smoke and flames. Loud crashing, popping, and banging noises could be heard from a variety of sources. “It made my heart sink into my stomach,” Peterson said of the intense noises.
The building shifted and buckled under the heat. Large lights dropped from the ceiling, shattering on the floor puncturing several hoses. Popping could be heard from acetylene tanks which released their gasses as a built in safety precaution as stress of the circumstances could cause them to become more dangerous.
“People don’t realize the dangers that lurk there,” Boyd Carrigan said, explaining the tanks could become missiles.
In the end, they lost the building, parts, inventory, a four-wheeler, motorcycle, woodworking equipment, pickup, distributor truck and more. Initially the loss was estimated to have a worth of over $1 million; however, as time has moved on, that number has doubled. “You start adding up all the other things in there and it’s over $2 million bucks,” Rich said.
“We can work through that,” Johnny said of the loss. He doesn’t feel that it will impact any of the customers. “It won’t show on a job,” he said confidently.
He feels other companies would probably lay off employees if faced with the same thing but they plan to “keep all our guys working.” It is apparent that this family owned business is tight knit including those who are not related.
Representatives from the State Fire Marshalls Office and Cincinnati Insurance were working together with the company and Morgan Fire Department to determine the cause; however, there was no suspicion and calamity was labeled as “purely accidental.”
The Wilkinsons carried on with a positive attitude. They each expressed how happy they were that no one was injured and that not everything was lost. They continued to reiterate their gratitude for the support of family, friends and neighbors.