UPDATED: Officials probe cause in Waterloo apartment fire - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UPDATED: Still no cause ruled in Waterloo apartment fire

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Photo Courtesy of Scott Voigt Photo Courtesy of Scott Voigt
WATERLOO (KWWL) -

A major setback late Monday afternoon for developers of two 12-plex apartment buildings under construction in Waterloo.  Fire destroyed the two structures in the 3800 block of West 4th Street and forced an evacuation of neighbors nearby.  No injuries were reported.

Black charred wood beams and a few pieces of the concrete foundation are all that remains of these two apartment buildings.  Damage is estimated at some $400,000.  Despite the wreckage, the developer is planning to rebuild.

"Wood framed buildings that are under construction or under renovation make for the toughest fires for us in the fire service.  The interiors for most of the buildings aren't complete.  So in this case, there was no drywall, no doors, no windows -- nothing to stop the fire from spreading," said Pat Treloar, Chief of Waterloo Fire Services.

The aftermath--only rubble remains from construction of apartments that would've looked like the attractive, neighboring properties owned by the same developers.  Before the fire, one new building was constructed to the second floor.  The other was wrapped with siding, and even had shingles on the roof.  Mother Nature only helped fuel the fire.

"Certainly I think the conditions... not only the wind, but how dry the area was.  We did have the fire spread down a tree line.  We're lucky the whole field behind there didn't get going," Treloar said.

Five Waterloo engines and an aerial sprayer helped limit the spread.  Thankfully, the overall fire danger is now dropping.

"We like the moisture we're seeing today.  So if the winds can stay down, but we do get a little bit of moisture, it'll help Mother Nature.  We'll see conditions improve in the area," said Treloar.

Developer Duane Wessels didn't want to go on camera with us.  But he told KWWL that this has "been a great project from the beginning," and he's hoping once the ashes settle, the project can get started all over again.

The fire is not considered suspicious.  The scene has been turned over to the insurance company.  Its investigators should be on scene later this week.

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