Friday the 13th ablaze with local fires

Firefighters respond to County Road near T Bar S Body Shop in Evanston Friday afternoon as a fire burns an RV. Cameron R. John of Evanston suffered a heart attack and died while working to put out the blaze. (HERALD PHOTO/Mark Tesoro)

Local man dies from heart attack while trying to put out RV fire on Evanston’s County Road

EVANSTON — Evanston fire and ambulance crews responded to three separate structure fires on Friday, Nov. 13, keeping firefighters unusually busy.

The first two fires occurred within about 45 minutes of one another on Friday morning, according to posts on the Uinta County Fire and Ambulance Facebook page. The first occurred in an outbuilding on Donner Ave. in the Aspen Grove area at approximately 9:30 a.m. Fire Cpt. Tim Overy said that fire was accidental and caused by hot ashes from a wood stove discarded in a non-metal bucket. There were no injuries from that fire.

The second fire occurred approximately 45 minutes later in a mobile home on Thornock Ave. in North Evanston. Overy said that blaze was an electrical fire that resulted from an overheated appliance. Although there were no injuries in that fire either, the home was a total loss. Overy said he believes the family that was displaced due to that fire has been staying with relatives. A Facebook post on the page of Evanston restaurant Paff’s said an employee’s family had lost everything and asked that anyone able to help the family contact Paff’s.

The third fire occurred at around 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon, when a motor home on County Rd. was engulfed in flames. Overy said the circumstances surrounding that fire are still under investigation. A man at that location had collapsed was and taken to Evanston Regional Hospital in critical condition, according to the Fire and Ambulance Facebook page, although family members have confirmed that man — Cameron John — died Friday afternoon.

Cameron’s sister and brother — Melanie Smith of Evanston and Marty Smith of Colorado — told the Herald authorities found that Cameron, or Cam as they called him, died of a heart attack, “probably caused by the stress of the explosion/fire,” Marty Smith wrote in a Facebook post. He and Melanie expressed relief to find out their brother didn’t suffer burns from the fire.

“It’s important to me to let people know this because for me, the whole first night I had pictured something else completely and a much worse death. I think he went very quickly so that’s good news and I’m very thankful it wasn’t what I thought initially.”

Melanie said Cameron had run to the body shop next door, grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran out to try to put out the fire. But he never made it back to the RV; she said some body shop employees went to check on Cameron and he had collapsed so someone called for an ambulance.

Melanie remembers her brother as a kind, generous man who liked adventure.

“He was very generous with everyone and kindhearted,” she said. “He just loved people. … He was an amazing rock climber. We lived in Boulder, so there were lots of rocks for him to climb.”

She said the family moved to Evanston in 1984.

Marty said he and Cam hadn’t been close for a few years, but he remembered his brother similarly.

“I know he was very generous and liked to help people,” Marty told the Herald. “He was always going out of his way. He was very tender with my mom recently. She’s got kind of late stage dementia, and the last few months he’s been caring and nurturing with my mom.”

“We were close years ago,” Marty Smith said. “He’s a pretty turbulent guy. He was very fiery, very brilliant. He was always building and tinkering with weird contraptions. He’d make these miniature weather balloons and he’d attach blinking lights to mess with the neighbors, pretending they’re UFOs.”

Although their relationship might have been strained at times, Marty has fond memories of his older brother.

“One of the good memories I have with him is music,” he told the Herald. There was a time when they shared music with each other, and that helped bring the two together. For Marty, that meant playing Metallica for Cam, who is 15 years his senior. In return, Cam would play some older music for Marty — Eric Clapton, Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Yardbirds, for example.

In light of the three fires, Overy stressed residential fire safety. He said it’s critical that ashes from wood stoves, fireplaces, etc., be disposed of in metal containers and kept away from combustibles. He also stressed the importance of ensuring that appliances be professionally inspected for hazardous defects on a regular basis.

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