Sept. 26--It's been nearly a year since a Water Street fire claimed the lives of two UW-Eau Claire students from Minnesota, and authorities may never know the cause of the blaze.
"As of now, that file is still active. The cause is listed as undetermined," Eau Claire fire Deputy Chief Scott Burkart said.
"And, as of now, we're going to leave it as undetermined," he said.
The only thing that is certain is that the fire Oct. 8 at the two-story building at 630 Water St. started on the second floor, Burkart said.
Two other agencies -- the Eau Claire Police Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives -- also have open investigations on the fire.
The Police Department is waiting for a final report from the ATF of its findings, department spokesman Kyle Roder said.
"The ATF assisted in the general fire investigation," Roder said. "At the time that we receive that report, we will assign a final disposition for the case."
Ross Livermore, 21, died of smoke inhalation. Jacob Clarkson, 21, died a day later at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.
Their friends, both fellow 2009 graduates of Stillwater Area High School, Garret Isakson and Casey Malan escaped from the blaze that started in the four-bedroom apartment.
Burkart admits an undetermined cause leaves an empty feeling for firefighters.
"It's frustrating," he said. "We'd like to find closure for ourselves and others, but sometimes circumstances don't allow that.
"There are some fires that just can never be determined. It's not unusual for a fire to be listed as undetermined."
Construction continues on a two-story building to replace the one that was destroyed by the fire.
The original building had 1,240 square feet on each floor, while the new building has 1,700 square feet per floor. The first floor will house offices; the second floor will feature two two-bedroom apartments.
Holtz can be reached at 715-833-9207, 800-236-7077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2013 - The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.