Investigators sort through downtown fire scene

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On Monday, March 30, fire investigators, insurance personnel, the state fire marshal and other experts search through the rubble left behind by a massive fire in downtown Alexandria Feb. 25. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)

Fire investigators, insurance personnel, the state fire marshal and other experts have been in Alexandria this week, searching through what remains of four historic downtown buildings trying to figure out what caused a massive fire Feb. 25.

The fire wiped out six businesses on the corner of 5th Avenue and Broadway street in downtown Alexandria, as well as displaced nearly two dozen residents from their apartments located above the businesses.

Alexandria Fire Chief Jeff Karrow said that because of the coronavirus pandemic, all those on scene were taking precautions – many wearing Tyvek suits, masks, gloves or anything else they need to be safe.

This was the week that was set up for everyone to be at the scene doing their investigations. If they didn’t get it done now, he said it possibly wouldn’t have happened until August.

“They are being protected,” said Karrow. “No one on scene is sick or coughing. They are doing their due diligence.”


He said it is standard practice for businesses to have building insurance, as well as a business policy. Each insurance company working on this case hires its own fire investigators and experts, such as electricians, to try and find out what happened. Even though they all have their own people, the whole group works together so they are not duplicating services, said Karrow.

He said everything was being mapped out, photos were being taken and items were being cleaned, sketched and documented.

“It is very tedious work,” Karrow said.

He described it as if everyone was in canoes in the same stream, paddling the same direction trying to get to the same destination.

He believes that the origin of the fire might be known by the end of the week. However, it won’t be official until the investigation is complete, which means until everything has been sent to forensic labs and the lab reports come back.

“It’s not like what you see on TV during an episode of CSI,” Karrow said. “They don’t figure it out that quickly. They have to focus in, clean, take pictures, go through everything and hone in on it. It’s like an onion and they have to peel back each layer.”

Karrow called the whole process “quite amazing” and “pretty interesting.”

“These guys have been doing this kind of thing for 20 to 30 years,” he said. “They know what they are doing.”


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Trying to figure out the origin of the fire that tore through four historic downtown buildings, investigators search through what remains at the site. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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