Cause determined in Cedar Rapids house fire - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cause determined in Cedar Rapids house fire

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -

The Cedar Rapids Fire Department says boxes placed too close to a gas water heater are to blame for a Wednesday house fire that displaced three people and killed a cat.

Crews were called to 155 19th Street NW, Cedar Rapids, at around 3:42 p.m. Wednesday afternoon after 32-year-old Amber Forde and her nine-year-old daughter returned home and found a fire in the basement.

When firefighters arrived, they found smoke coming from the chimney and charring around a basement window. When they entered through the back door, they had zero visibility because of the thick smoke in the basement. 

Greg Buelow, Cedar Rapids Public Information Officer, says an investigator found the weather cap and the inner and outer inspection covers on the water heater were missing, which likely caused a flue inversion and ignited the boxes.

The fire damage was contained to the basement, but the rest of the home suffered smoke damage.

Forde, her boyfriend -- 38-year-old West Gerdes -- and her daughter were displaced from their home and are being helped by the American Red Cross. Gerdes was not home at the time of the fire.

The family's cat was killed in the fire. No other injuries were reported.

Forde told firefighters that there were no smoke detectors in the basement, but smoke alarms on the main level were sounding as her and her daughter left the home to call 911.

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