New information in Burlington house fire investigation

Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 8:53 PM CDT
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BURLINGTON , Iowa (KWQC) - A memorial sits on the trunk of 44-year-old Samantha Hoenig’s car, which is still parked outside of the house-turned-apartment building where a fire took her life on August 27.

The blaze engulfed most of the building, damaging it beyond repair. City officials say that the severity of the fire was the result of precautionary measures not being taken as well as a lack of fire safety knowledge.

“[It’s} very likely the fire could’ve been prevented,” said Fire Marshall Mark Crooks, “we’re still looking into several different possibilities of how it started.”

According to officials, Hoenig’s death was the result of her front door--the only exit she had--being obstructed by fire.

Burlington fire marshals have not finished the investigation into what started the fire, but they say they know enough to determine that it started in the bottom-right floor unit, which was separate from the top floor apartment Hoenig was living in.

While any sort of criminal activity has been ruled out in the investigation, an inspection of the building that had taken place just one week prior determined that the apartment where the fire started was. at that time, dinged for fire safety hazards.

“Unit 1 did need two smoke detectors, and it also needed a fire extinguisher,” said Chief Code Inspector Larry Caston.

Data from the National Fire Prevention Association shows that about 3 out of five of all fire relate deaths are caused by smoke alarms that are either defunct or not present.

Officials say the outcome could have been much different has the tenants of Unit 1 replaced their alarms.

“They wouldn’t have stopped the fire,” said Crooks, “but they would have notified the building’s occupants a little sooner.”

Looking back, city officials have determined the fire was an awful tragedy that resulted in death, and the loss of a home.

“A lady lost her life in a fire that probably could’ve been prevented with people being more careful,” said Caston.

Marshal Crooks urges people to take fire escape plans seriously, saying “it comes down to having a plan. At the time of a fire, it is not the time to come up with a plan.”

Officials say it is especially important to have an escape plan if you are in an apartment building, which might not have as many exits as a regular home.

TV6 has reached out to the landlord of the home, and has yet to receive a response.

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