Security risks on Sans Souci Island - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Security risks on Sans Souci Island

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Thursday afternoon fire crews responded to a 911 call. A passerby noticed smoke coming from a home in the 100 block of Sans Souci Drive. The area has been abandoned for nearly three years, following massive flooding in 2008.

Firefighters contained the flames to the first floor, and the State Fire Marshals office is investigating.

The fire brings up an ongoing issue -- how long will abandoned homes sit on Sans Souci Island?

Waterloo Police Capt. Tim Pillack said, shortly after the 2008 flood, security was a very real issue on the island. He noted looting and trespassing were common for several months. Even up until last week, the city couldn't legally close off the road into Sans Souci.

"People still owned parts of the island. So they had to have access down there," said City Planning Director Noel Anderson.

Now the city owns the flood-stricken land, and lately, Waterloo police report little, if any, crime on the island.

That is, until the fire Tuesday that sparked questions among investigators.

"There's no utilities to the area since everything's abandoned," said Mike Junk, Waterloo Fire Rescue Battalion Chief.

The power lines running through this island -- or rather the lack of power to the lines, is one of the reasons firefighters are calling this blaze suspicious. There are also "Keep Out" signs posted all over the road, warning people to stay off the restricted land. Of course, a sign won't always stop someone from causing trouble.

"They have barricaded it as best as they can. Its definitely difficult when you have a lot of abandoned houses and little supervision down there," Anderson noted.

The city is working as fast as possible to clear the homes, although some argue, it's not fast enough.

"FEMA said it would take about three years, and they were right. It takes a lot of time to get through the legal work, the abstract, and the negotiating," said Anderson.

On April 11th, the city will choose a contractor to demolish the remaining homes. They'll then have six months to finish the work. From there, the future is a blank canvas.

"Looking at a campground, a park space, a green space," Anderson said.

The one thing the island can never be again, is a home.

"There were some that didn't want to sell the remaining portion of the island. They wanted to keep it. And that was a tough decision for them," Anderson added.

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