Cleanup and investigations continue after Brookside fire

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 | 6:41 p.m. CDT; updated 10:49 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 29, 2012

COLUMBIA — As the investigation of Sunday morning's fire at Brookside on College continues, what once was a construction site has been temporarily turned into a cleanup effort.

The fire caused an estimated $7 million in damage to the unfinished apartment complex. So far, its cause has not been determined.

The on-site portion of the investigation was completed Sunday afternoon. Fire Battalion Chief James Weaver of the Columbia Fire Department said investigators had advanced to the interviewing stage of the process.

"There's a lot of people being interviewed with this particular fire," Weaver said. He said contractors and witnesses were among those being interviewed, and evidence was still being brought forth.

Weaver was unable to specify when a report on the fire will be released.

The complex at Walnut Street and College Avenue was not deemed a total loss. In a Facebook announcement Monday, Brookside said they believe 40 percent of the units will still be ready shortly after the semester begins this fall, with the remaining 60 percent ready by Oct. 15.

Brookside said Tuesday afternoon that its goal at this point is to ensure temporary housing is available to displaced tenants "at no cost to them." Information on temporary housing packages has not yet been made available.

By Tuesday afternoon, large amounts of debris had been collected into piles to be hauled off site. Portions of the buildings left standing still had visible damage, particularly to the roofs and upper floors.

Renee Bungart of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources said one staff member was on-site at Flat Branch Creek on Tuesday to gather water samples, which will be sent to a state laboratory to determine what effect, if any, the fire may have had on water quality.

Flat Branch Creek fell victim to a massive fish kill in April, traced back to a fire at O'Reilly Auto Parts on Business Loop 70. The water used to extinguish the blaze became laced with chemicals and traveled to the creek through the storm water system.

Sean Ernst, conservation agent with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said water quality issues are usually diagnosed by fish kills. As of Tuesday morning, none had been reported by the public.

Supervising editor is Ann Elise Taylor.

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