The cause of a New Year’s day fire that killed three people in northeast Iowa may remain a mystery. State Fire Marshal Ray Reynolds says the damage to the trailer home near Arlington is too extensive to accurately determine what happened. “At this point, there’s nothing suspicious about the fire, but the case is being listed as ‘undetermined,'” Reynolds told Radio Iowa.
Killed in the fire were 73-year-old Gerald Rodenberg and his two grandsons, Henry and Ian Rodenberg, ages 6 and 5. Injured in the fire were the boy’s parents and their 9-year-old son.
Reynolds says it appears at least three accidental causes could be responsible for sparking the fire. Investigators identified a wood-burning stove, space heaters or smoking materials as possible ignition sources.
Fire crews responded to the blaze at 4 a.m. Saturday. The trailer likely did not have working smoke detectors. “We believe at one point there were smoke detectors, however there’s a number of statements and other evidence that leads us to believe they were not operational. The batteries may’ve been removed,” Reynolds said.
Donations to help the family are being accepted at the Farmers Savings Bank in Arlington. “This is a tremendous tragedy for this community and this state. It’s certainly not how we want to start 2011, let alone the loss of children and the grandfather to a family,” Reynolds said. “Our hearts go out to this family and to the community.”