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Investigation Rules Out Electrical Cause In Terra Trace Fire

Investigators say electrical appliances, electrical systems or any mechanical or structural failures in the building were not the cause of the fire.

Terra Trace Fire

Photo: Dan Goldblatt/WFIU News

The cause of the fire at the Terra Trace Apartments has not be determined.

Outside investigators say they cannot determine the actual cause of the Terra Trace Apartment fire that claimed the life of nineteen year old Indiana University freshman Renee Ohrn, but Investigations have managed to eliminate some potential causes.

Private investigations firm Midwest Forensics of Indianapolis, which was hired to further look into the cause of the fire at the Terra Trace Apartments last month, says the damage was so extensive it could not determine what actually started the fire.

West Bend Mutual Insurance Company helped Terra Trace Apartments hire the investigation team, and West Bend’s Chief Legal Officer John Duwell says electrical failures did not start the fire.

“We do know that Inspector Hackett ruled out any malfunctions of any electrical appliances, electrical systems or any mechanical or structural failures in the building as a cause of the fire,” he says. “But, sadly the destruction in the unit in question was so catastrophic that it is going to be difficult to determine actual cause.”

Duwell says the investigation also confirmed that smoke detectors were tested by Terra Trace and a private fire protection company in every apartment. He says three weeks before the fire, another private inspection company tested the pull alarms during a routine inspection.

“That same fire protection company tested the central pull alarms in the hallways. All six pulls as well as three horns, they all passed testing,” he says.

But the Bloomington Fire Department’s investigation found the hallway alarms did not work during the fire because their power source was switched off. Bloomington Fire Chief Roger Kerr says it’s routine for insurance companies to hire outside investigators and the more preparation apartments and residents can do in terms of fire safety, the better.

“It says on the side of our trucks ‘smoke detectors save lives’ and they truly can,” he says. “We just got to make sure they’re up and working when they need to be,” he says.

The investigation is now complete, but authorities say they will continue to analyze the evidence for more clues to what could have started the fire.

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