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Cause of Allouez apartment fire still under investigation

Firefighters battle an apartment complex fire at 3415 Hilltop Way in Allouez on May 23. 2013. (Photo taken by Reporter Terry Lee).
Firefighters battle an apartment complex fire at 3415 Hilltop Way in Allouez on May 23. 2013. (Photo taken by Reporter Terry Lee).

GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ) - Despite media reports earlier this week saying the investigation into the massive Allouez apartment fire was closed, Green Bay Metro Fire Lt. Nick Craig says they it is a very "active and ongoing" investigation.

"We are actually the lead agency and there is still a chance we could find out what caused it," Craig says. "They (Wisconsin state fire marshal's office) have a piece of the report, we have a piece of the report, and all the other assisting agencies help put our reports together. That's why we initially said four to six weeks for completion."

The Green Bay Press-Gazette was the first to report that spokeswoman Dana Brueck said her office's final reports would show the cause of the May 23 fire as "undetermined", and that investigators had completed their work.

"Their reports are based on what they saw when they were here," Lt. Craig clarified. "So their report may reflect undetermined on their end because that what they saw with the evidence they had before them."

The Brown County Fire Investigation Task Force is also assisting in the investigation. 

Craig says they continue to follow leads in the case, and are working with the property's insurance company to gain further access to the area where the fire at Hilltop Place Apartments is believed to have started.

"We have good reason to believe that the building's insurance company will pay some money to get that heavy equipment needed out and put it on nice, solid ground so we're able to look at it," Craig said.

The blaze caused over $3 million in damage and displaced more than 100 people. Craig says that in no way are they downplaying the importance of help they've received into this probe, because they appreciate the aid into trying to solve what he calls a, "once in a 20-year fire."

"The report that came out may be troubling to some of the residents thinking it's just two weeks after the fire and already the fire department is saying that the case is closed and their done looking at it," Craig says. "People want answers and we're gonna try our hardest to get them a good solid answer, and at this point we're still working towards that."

Craig says that nothing at this point can be ruled out as a cause, even arson.

"At this point, there's nothing blatantly obvious that would lead us to believe its arson," said Craig. "That's not to say that once we hopefully get those pieces of the building out on the lawn that that's not something we'll find."

There's also a chance that the investigation with be stamped as "undetermined" once authorities reach that conclusion. 

"Undetermined is a cause, that's the final stamp you put on a report when you put it to bed for a while," Craig adds. "It may be opened up years later if a tip should come in, and this case may never be solved."

Firefighters from all over the region responded to the six-alarm blaze that gutted the 40-year-old residential property.

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