The Cedar Rapids Fire Department has announced what their investigation determined was the cause of a fire at a downtown high rise.

The fire at the 12-story Geneva Tower apartment building, at the corner of 3rd Street and 5th Avenue,  started around midnight the morning of Sunday, February 20. At the time, the Cedar Rapids Fire Department announced that the fire started on the 9th floor of the building, before quickly spreading upward through the top floors.

That morning, Cedar Rapids fire crews fought the blaze for approximately three hours while residents were being moved to Veritas Church. The church, across the street from Geneva Tower, was an emergency Red Cross shelter well into the day before residents were moved to the Veterans Memorial Building on Mays Island.

Monday, February 28, the Cedar Rapids Fire Department revealed that the cause of the fire was accidental. According to a media release from the CRFD,

Smoking materials left unattended too close to combustible materials ignited in a room on the 9th floor and swiftly spread to floors 10, 11 and 12. This determination is based on interviews, on-scene interviews and coordination with other investigative entities.

 

Built in 1971, Geneva Tower is a 183-unit "income-based (HUD) housing property for seniors aged 62 and older and adults with disabilities". Julie Schulte, Disability Integration Manager at the Veterans Memorial Building shelter, told KCRG it's an especially difficult situation:

The population at these apartments had many medical and mental health needs, more than I’ve seen at any other disaster. This is my 21st disaster. Usually, it’s about 10 to 15% of the population that needs this kind of help. With this population, it’s about 90%.
Repair work continues at Geneva Tower but there's no timetable for when most residents will be able to return.

Geneva Tower Fire in Downtown Cedar Rapids

Geneva Tower, at the corner of 3rd Street and 5th Avenue SE, sustained damage during an overnight fire the morning of Sunday, February 20, 2022. The fire resulted in the complete evacuation of the 13-story apartment building. There is no timetable for when residents may be able to return.

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