A smoldering cigarette inside a trashcan probably caused a weekend fire at the Old Market Loft Apartments, authorities said on Monday. Apparently, the trash receptacle on the roof had a wooden frame around it that caught fire.
The building's owner, Todd Heistand, estimates the damage at $150,000, but he said that's nothing compared to how bad it could have been. Heistand credited the Omaha Fire Department and some architectural engineering for limiting the damage, after the fire broke out on the roof Friday night.
"When you saw the flames shooting 30 feet into the air -- I was in a panic," Heistand said.
Heistand said he feared his multi-million-dollar apartment building was going up in flames.
"Instead of having that four-alarm fire going on all night, they were able to get it under control in less than 20 minutes," Heistand said.
Heistand said the firewalls performed like they were supposed to, and the fire on the roof stayed on the roof.
"It never even got to the inside of the building. There was no smoke or fire damage inside the building," he said.
The blaze didn't set off the sprinkler system, nor the smoke alarms inside. The only damage was water damage.
Tenant Dave Johnson's apartment is located just below the hottest part of the fire. He thought for sure it would be gutted, but other than some minor water damage, his apartment is unscathed.
"They put tarps over the computer, over the television, my entertainment center," Johnson said.
Johnson is thankful to Omaha firefighters who took the time to cover his electronics equipment.
"They're always talking about the firemen and how they damage, and they actually took that kind of time. I just think that's awesome, and I think the citizens should know about it," Johnson said.
Firefighters even managed to save one of his most recent prized possessions -- his personally autographed Oak Ridge Boys picture. That inspired Johnson to write a song that begins, "My lofts are burning."
Heistand said 16 apartments were water damaged. Tenants from those apartments are staying elsewhere until repairs can be made. Heistand also said the structure of the trashcan on the roof will be changed from wood to something less flammable.
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