City officials in Waterloo have called in the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to help investigate a huge fire overnight at a construction site. Lieutenant Mike Moore wit Waterloo Fire Rescue says the building there was almost finished, and in a few more weeks would have started admitting elderly low-income clients who needed a range of care options.
Because of the dollar loss, they’re getting A.T.F. involved in the investigation. The agency will send a team from Cedar Rapids or Des Moines to help with the investigation. The 64-unit "Rose of Waterloo" complex is an assisted-living facility that was to offer services including meals to residents when it opened.
Because it was still under construction, officials couldn’t immediately estimate the loss from the fire. He says they can’t put a dollar figure on the loss, partly because a lot of construction companies were working on it — though he says, "It’ll be big." A year ago, the city arranged for nearly eight-Million dollars in tax credits for the construction project. Utilities were hooked up to the building, which was due to open in June or July.
They’re not sure how it started but Moore says once it was discovered, the firefighters noticed an open gas line. He says for now, they can’t say if that was a cause ior a result of the fire. Witnesses describe power lines catching fire and exploding, and some nearby residents were awakened by firefighters in the early-morning hours.
There were evacuations, he confirms, because it’s a three-story building and was entirely involved in fire when the crews arrived. Neighboring houses were in danger from the intense radiating heat, so part of Oak Street and houses as far away as Mulberry Street, two blocks away, they told people to leave their homes. The residents were allowed to return home a few hours later. Firefighters were called about 3-30 AM and the construction project is being called a total loss.