Sept. 27--WINONA -- Investigators don't believe the downtown Winona fire that impacted nearly an entire block was the result of arson, according to Winona Assistant Fire Chief Jim Multhaup.
The investigation took place Wednesday and included the Winona Fire Department, Winona Police Department, the state fire marshal, federal investigators, private insurance investigators and an electrical engineer. That group painstakingly reconstructed the scene by hand -- as opposed to using mechanical equipment, which is typical -- in order to determine the cause.
Multhaup said that all parties agreed the fire began between the ceiling and roof of the Islamic Center, potentially caused by electrical equipment in that space. However, foul play is not suspected.
"The final determination (was made) when we were able to see the bottom side of the ceiling where the fire began," Multhaup said. "The bottom side was clean.
"Malicious intent or foul play was not suspected because we know the fire started between the ceiling and the roof in the Islamic Center. All agencies that were there, it was a total agreement in the findings."
The blaze began around 2 a.m. Sept. 13 and burned for hours before being contained. Damage estimates are not yet available, Multhaup said, but the Islamic Center is considered a total loss and "several other buildings incurred fire damages."
The matter has been turned over to property owners and insurance adjusters to handle the recovery process.
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