Investigators say overnight fire is suspicious - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Investigators say overnight fire is suspicious

CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -- Cedar Rapids Police are investigating a case of arson, a problem that could get worse as temperatures drop.

It's estimated that up to 850 Cedar Rapids homes sit empty all across downtown. Families were forced out by the floods, now one couple has lost their house a second time.

Rescue crews were called to K Avenue around 2 a.m. Wednesday, and saw flames blocks away.

We're told fewer residents have caused the number of fires to decline since the floods, but now that winter is here, that could change.

Laurie Jaeger and Jason Bascom had been living there for 2 years, until they were forced out by the June flood. They arrived Wednesday morning to find their home reduced to ashes.

"The flood back in June and then this now," Bascom said, "it's kinda hard to believe that disaster strikes twice in six months."

It's a concern fire officials have had since the floods, early Wednesday morning, fear became reality.

Greg Buelow of the Cedar Rapids Fire Department says the fire is considered suspicious at this time. Buelow says the fact the home was abanoned, and that there was no gas or electrical service, leads investigators to believe some sort of human element was involved.

"There's been no suspects that have been ruled out according to our arson investigator," Buelow said, "however he did have an opportunity to talk with the homeowners, and they had flood insurance. And they were going to midigate it anyhow, take care of the property."

That's why in this case investigators don't want people to assume the fire was caused by the homeowners. Buelow says this is the first flood damaged home they're looking at as possible arson. He says police have been monitoring neighborhoods for looters or homeless people, looking for shelter from the cold.

"We've continued that extra patrol, we've hired off duty officers to come back and patrol flood effected areas," Sgt. Cristy Hamblin said.


Online Reporter: Bryan Goettel

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