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Burlington Honors Firefighters; Tama Fire Investigation Continues

Aug 23, 2018

The Burlington City Council honored the local fire departments that responded to this month's fire at the Tama Complex in downtown Burlington. All told, more than 50 firefighters from six cities were at the scene.

Mayor Shane McCampbell presented a “Mayor’s Award” to representatives of each department. The award offered the thanks of the city and praised the courageous efforts of the firefighters and their departments.

“I’ll tell you. This is just a little Mayor’s Award,” said McCampbell. “I wish we could give you so much more. We truly, truly appreciate all of the help.”

The responding departments include

  • Burlington
  • West Burlington
  • Danville
  • Mediapolis
  • Fort Madison
  • Mount Pleasant

Burlington Fire Chief Matt Trexel said local fire departments sign mutual aid agreements in the hopes of never having to use them. He said it was amazing to see so many departments step up when Burlington needed them.

McCampbell also read a long list of individuals and businesses that donated food, water, and supplies to the firefighters while they were on the scene.

Investigation Update

The recognition comes as the investigation continues into what started the August 4 fire at the Tama Complex, which consists of a 5-story building and a 4-story building at the corner of 3rd and Jefferson.

Trexel said there are two investigations underway. One is being done by the Burlington Fire Department, Burlington Police Department, and the Iowa State Fire Marshall’s Office. The other is being conducted by insurance agents. 

Trexel said the city’s investigators spent a lot of time last week at the scene of the fire. They removed some debris to be more closely examined and they searched for certain signs of damage.

“Even when the building looks like it does now, there are certain things you can look for: burn patterns, depth of char,” said Trexel. “So if they are digging through material and they find a timber, they can look at the depth of char and say, 'Ok, this was exposed to a lot of fire.'”

It’s believed the fire began in the northwest corner of the four-story building.

Trexel said while there might be a few more quick visits to the site, he said much of the investigation will now focus on reviewing video footage and interviewing or re-interviewing witnesses and construction workers.

“New questions will come up and they will ask the people new questions,” said Trexel. “Just because we are interviewing them multiple times doesn’t mean they are a suspect or we think they are guilty of anything. We are just trying to build the timeline and trying to figure out how this fire started.”

Trexel does not have a timeline for determining the cause of the fire.

The two buildings were in the final stages of a multi-year, multi-million dollar renovation for residential and commercial use.