Two people were killed in a building fire in southeast Iowa this weekend and investigators say it appears the layout of a building may have been a factor in the deaths. The fire, which also left two people injured, broke out Saturday afternoon in an apartment located in a building in Columbus Junction.
Investigators say the fire originated in the kitchen area and blocked the only exit. Ron Humphrey, with the State Fire Marshal’s office, says while Iowa law requires all apartments to meet fire codes, there’s no requirement for inspections.
“The only time our office would get involved is after a complaint from a resident or someone from the city who sees something wrong,” Humphrey said. “They would call our office and then we’re required by law to go out and do an inspection of the property.”
Humphrey says state inspectors are dedicated to checking state owned properties and a lack of adequate staffing would make it difficult to launch a mandatory, statewide apartment inspection program. “We have a total of 16 inspectors for the entire state of Iowa who inspect a wide variety of different occupancies – from schools, colleges, nursing homes, hospitals, apartments and businesses,” Humphrey said.
The exact cause of Saturday’s fire in Columbus Junction has not been determined and the victim’s names have not been released.