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Barbecue Blamed for Fourth of July Fire At Waupelani Drive Apartment Complex

by on July 10, 2013 4:45 PM

A resident grilling on a balcony is blamed for a devastating fire that roared through a State College apartment complex on Independence Day. A preliminary investigation has determined the fire was accidental, according to Steve Bair, Fire Director of the Centre Region Council of Governments. The fire left 40 people homeless.

Bair says he believes the fire was caused by someone using a grill on the rear second-floor balcony of the property. He's looking into whether cooking on the balcony is a code violation.

State College Police did not return requests for comment regarding whether they plan to file any charges. 

Bair says the preliminary investigation took a few days because officials had to identify the cause of the fire and had to be "absolutely sure" they could rule out any other causes.

"There's engineers looking at the building and the electrical system. At the same time, they're looking at the cooking applicance in question," Bair says. "Did the appliance fail? You have to make sure you really understand those things."

There's still a lot of personal property waiting to be retrieved by displaced tenants, Bair says. Engineers should be finished with all of their work on the building by the end of the day on Friday, at which point building management will work with the Centre Region Council of Governments to help the tenants get all of their things safely out of the building. 

Nineteen units were damaged or destroyed by the fire. Bair says once everything is out of the building, building management and its insurance company will look at what's left of the building and decide whether to demolish what's left of the structure.

On Thursday, a three-alarm fire broke out around 8:15 at Waupelani Drive. Firefighters battled the blaze for hours before putting it out. 

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Laura Nichols is a StateCollege.com news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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