Cedar Rapids Fire Department discusses high rise apartment fire

Investigators will work to interview witnesses as they try to determine what sparked a fire at a high rise apartment building in Cedar Rapids early Sunday morni
Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 7:12 AM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Investigators will work to interview witnesses as they try to determine what sparked a fire at a high rise apartment building in Cedar Rapids early Sunday morning.

Firefighters say this was one of the most impactful high rise fires they’ve dealt with in the last 30 years. They also say it was a lot of work to evacuate the Geneva Tower along with Cedar Rapids Police officers. Crews went door to door from the 7th floor and above to clear out the facility. Cedar Rapids Fire didn’t have an exact number of those evacuated during a news conference on Sunday.

Sunday afternoon, the fire department said two people suffered serious injuries. At least another 7 people were transported to the hospital for observation.

The Fire Department says when fighting a high rise fire, crews will typically concentrate their efforts on the floor where the fire originated, two floors below that point, as well as all floors above that.

Firefighters say the apartment where the fire started sustained severe damaged. The fire then broke out the window to that apartment, as well as the window to the apartment above, as the flames spread. Apartments directly below the original apartment scene also sustained water damage. There will also be significant smoke damage to the 9th floor, where the fire originated, as well as floors above it.

Firefighters say the management of the high rise building is working with contractors to look at the damages and clean the building. Cleaning and repairs will need to meet specific standards before people can move back into their apartments.

The fire department says Geneva Tower is a concrete structure, which means it holds the fire in the original apartment. But they did not believe the floors above the second floor had sprinklers, which did not slow down the flames. They also say the fire was located on the north side of the building. They say if had been in the south side, firefighters may have dealt with wind conditions that could have helped spread the flames.

Firefighters say they train for these kinds of fires, saying they practice just like a sports team, and it helps create a muscle memory, so firefighters know how to handle a situation like they saw on Sunday.

“It’s a unique fire attack,” said Chief Greg Smith with the Cedar Rapids Fire Department. “It’s very different than a residential fire, a single family residence or a small apartment building. I know our crews have done additional training with ladder trucks, that kind of stuff, at Geneva Towers specifically, but also at many of the downtown buildings, just for these circumstances.”

The Fire Department is working with the Salvation Army and Red Cross to help those displaced. Geneva Tower is an income-based housing property. It mainly houses seniors and adults with disabilities.

Cedar Rapids Fire thanked everyone involved with helping at the fire scene. They also made sure to say their thoughts and prayers go out to all of those hurt and evacuated in the fire.

KCRG-TV9's Mollie Swayne spoke to residents of the apartment building to hear how they have been dealing with the sudden disaster.

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