Iowa condo owners begin recovery process after second major fire in less than a decade

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


The Urbandale Patch reports that a massive New Year’s Day fire has destroyed half of 36 units in a condominium apartment building.

Fortunately, there were no injuries or fatalities.

Property damages are substantial.

In addition to fire damage to approximately 18 units, remaining units sustained minor to substantial smoke and water damage. Twenty vehicles parked in the underground garage were flooded by at least 7 feet of water during the firefighting process.

Plumwood Terrace condominium was the site of another major fire in 2010, according to this KCCI news report. That fire was caused by a propane grill.

According to local reports, following the 2010 fire, which occurred in a different building of the housing complex, it took the condo association more than a year to rebuild before residents could move back into their homes.

All tenants and owner-occupants of the building affected by the Jan 1, 2018, fire have been relocated, including residents of units that were not directly in the path of the fire.

Condo owners will remain financially responsible for making regular payments for mortgages, taxes, insurance, and condo assessments during the lengthy process of rebuilding.

Salvage Process Begins For Urbandale Condo Owners Following Fire

Cars flooded in underground parking since the Jan. 1 fire were towed out Thursday as movers began retrieving tenants’ salvageable items.

By Melissa Myers, Patch Staff | Jan 12, 2018 2:54 pm ET

URBANDALE, IA — Some of the Plumwood Terrace condominium owners displaced by a fire New Year’s Day began the process of retrieving salvageable possessions this week when insured movers were allowed to go into the south end of the building and pack up residents’ belongings. Approximately half of the 36 units in the building at 4837 86th St. were destroyed.

The fire, ruled accidental, began in the north half of the complex in a fireplace chimney and spread into the attic, Urbandale Fire Marshal Jon Rech told Patch. No one was injured.

Much of the south half of the building sustained water and smoke damage, Rech said, but little heat and fire damage. It’s that portion of the building that tenants’ movers were allowed access to on Thursday and Friday so the cleanup of their items could begin.

Read more:

Fires are quite common in multifamily residential structures.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2015, there were 95,000 apartment building fires, accounting for nearly 19% of all residential structure fires.

A Google search on “condo and apartment fire” reveals a long list of tragic loss across the nation, including a condo fire in Colorado that resulted in the deaths of two elementary school children.

Other recent condo fires have displaced residents in Annapolis (MD), Brookhaven (PA), and Tampa.

Dozens of other reports have been shared on IAC Facebook Page in the past several months.

For further reading, including important fire safety recommendations, see the following:

Home Fires are Common, Deadly and Preventable


The NFPA has additional advice for residents of multi-family properties:

Pick a building with a fire sprinkler system, if possible. This is particularly important in a multi-family dwelling, Comoletti says, because “you don’t know what your neighbors are doing.

Talk to the manager or the governing board (in a condominium) about the fire escape and general disaster management plan. Make sure there is a plan and that someone is responsible for publicizing and implementing it.

Know where fire exits are located and make sure they aren’t locked or otherwise blocked.

Obey the rules regarding outdoor grills, which are usually prohibited on balconies, and make sure your neighbors obey them too.

Pay particular attention to smoking restrictions. Rules prohibiting smoking inside buildings often allow smoking a designated distance from them. If you see residents who aren’t following those rules, or aren’t disposing of cigarette butts safely, report them to the manager or the board. If they don’t respond, Comoletti advises, contact your local fire department. Silence in this context isn’t golden; it is dangerous. “There are a lot of people living in multi-family buildings,” Comoletti notes, “and there are a lot of lives at risk.”

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