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Investigators Don’t Suspect Foul Play In Massive Apartment Fire

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - St. Louis fire investigators say they’ve all but ruled out arson as the cause of a massive 5 alarm fire Wednesday at 3949 Lindell in the Central West End.  They also say the building, which is only a few years old, was up to code before the fire broke out.  But at least one resident points out that “up to code” doesn’t necessarily mean “well built.”

Ryan Horace was one of dozens who watched the structure burn Wednesday night.  While he watched in horror, he wasn’t necessarily in shock. 

“I’ve lived in this building for three years.  I can say the craftsmanship is not that great.  The fact that fire started…anything could have happened, but the fact that it went that far, I’m not that surprised.”

Fire officials aren’t ruling out much as far as possible causes, and Horace believes electrical should be on that list.

“You’d flip light switches and every now and then you’d hear a pop.  Just tiles would fall out.  You could tell it was kind of put together pretty quickly,” he said. 

But investigators say t was also put together up to code.  St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson says the basic requirements for a building of this size and age were met.

“The fire alarm systems worked.  Meaning the alarm system to tell everybody to evacuated.  Sprinkler system.  The building was sprinklered.  That was all intact.  Everything worked as planned,” he says.

The one thing they wondered about for a while was whether or not barriers called “draft walls” were present in the attic.  They are supposed to slow down spreading flames, but aerial video of the blaze showed no such walls. 

Jenkerson said it wasn’t until Wednesday that they were able to go into one of the surviving buildings to check the construction. 

“We went into the remaining buildings that are still over there, and we put firefighters up in the attics and we looked, and we did have the required draft wall up in the attics.”

He called the fire a “perfect storm” with record heat leading to 200+ degree temperatures in the attic, which allowed the flames to cut through the walls “like a hot knife through butter.”

“As fast as it was moving and as hot as it was it might have just blown ‘em over and kept moving.  It was a very hot fire,” he said. “(The attic) had baked all day so I would venture to say it was above 200 degrees in that attic easily, and we think the fire started somewhere near the ceiling level so the fire was burning in the attic when we got there so it had a little of a head start on us.”

For Horace, the blaze couldn’t have come at a worse time. The recent law graduate has the bar exam in just six days.  Firefighters recovered water soaked books and a drenched laptop from his apartment Wednesday afternoon. 

Property managers of the 3949 Apartments say the building is a total loss. The company is using email and social media to communicate with it's residents.  The investigation into the fire continues.

Fire crews remained on the scene Wednesday morning as firefighters poured water to put out any hot spots. More than 100 people were left homeless but are getting help from the Red Cross and 3949 Apartments.

In an email, the company says it's refunding July's rent and all deposits and prepaid items.

Fire officials say several pets have died. To submit a missing pet report, contact the Humane Society of Missouri at 314-647-4400.

How you can help the fire victims

See Tuesday's Coverage:
5-Alarm Fire Races Through Apartment Complex
Fire Chief Praises Firefighters For Blaze Response
SkyFOX Video of Lindell Fire

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