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Payson • A fire severely damaged a four-plex in Payson Monday morning and routed three families after a 3-year-old set fire to a blanket with a lighter.

Fire Inspector Terry Reilly said the Payson Fire Department received the call for a structure fire at 753. S. 600 West at 10:47 a.m. The fire sent acrid smoke throughout the neighborhood on the city's southwest side.

Reilly said when firefighters arrived, the blaze had entered the building's attic space and spread into multiple apartments. He said three of the four apartments in the building were in use at the time.

Reilly said a resident of the building, a mother with three children under the age of 3, put the kids down for a nap and went to take a nap herself. The 3-year-old, meanwhile, began playing with a lighter and set a blanket on fire. The mother was awakened by the smoke detector and the oldest child. She grabbed the younger children from the bedroom, suffering minor burns on her arm and shoulder in the process.

Eve Bryant was among the residents forced to evacuate.

"I was on oxygen, and they were banging on my door, and they said it was a fire," Bryant said. "So I grabbed my computers and got out."

Bryant sat on a curb across the street as firefighters from Payson and neighboring Salem battled the blaze. Firefighters cut vent holes in the building's roof to get at the fire, and also were spraying water under the building's eaves.

"I think the building is a loss," Bryant said.

Reilly said two fire engines and a ladder truck from Payson responded to the blaze, along with a fire engine from Salem and two Payson ambulances.

Fire crews had the fire extinguished by 11:30 a.m. Reilly said the cause is still under investigation.

Twitter: @donaldwmeyers

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