Apartment fire’s cause difficult to determine

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian breaking news reporter

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Investigators are considering careless smoking or other human involvement as possible causes of a fire that destroyed a building of a Hazel Dell apartment complex last month.

There isn’t enough evidence, however, to make an official determination, said Deputy Fire Marshal Curtis Eavenson.

Between 60 and 70 people in 18 apartments were displaced by the three-alarm fire reported at 5:12 a.m. March 16. Investigators estimated the damage to the Bridge Creek Apartment Homes, 9211 N.E. 15th St., was about $1.5 million.

Fire officials have said that the blaze began in a walkway on the third floor of the M building.

Eavenson said that his investigation has revealed evidence that smokers commonly threw their cigarette butts onto the walkway. That alone, however, isn’t enough to determine that cigarettes caused the fire.

For example, he said, no one has come forward saying they spotted someone discarding a cigarette in the area around the time of the fire.

“We just don’t have enough evidence to point conclusively (to a cause),” he said.

Eavenson said he had one more person to interview, but added that unless he received better evidence, the cause of the fire will remain undetermined.