3/12/2013 11:38:00 AM Townhome fire likely started in bedroom
By David Richards
The investigator of the Feb. 2 fire in Byron that gutted eight units of the Valley View Townhome complex feels the blaze originated at floor level in the bedroom of one of the occupants.
In his report released last week, deputy state fire marshal and investigator Bruce McLaughlin stated that the cause of the fire is undetermined, but potential ignition sources include electrical/electronic items such as a fan, a power strip and cellular phones.
"The case is presently inactive and may be closed," McLaughlin wrote. "Any further information received or activity will be documented through a supplemental report."
The fire broke out at 1:50 a.m. Feb. 2 and displaced all of the residents who lived in that portion of Valley View.
Kat Louttit, property manager, lived in a backside unit of the complex that caught fire and said she could hear the smoke alarm through the walls.
She then helped several of the victims out of the building, including some who were still asleep.
"There was a ton of smoke," she said. "The glass was already shattering."
Asked if she ever felt as if she was in danger, her answer was simple.
"I didn't think about that," she said. "At the time, I just knew they needed to get out."
Other residents helped in the effort as well.
Byron Fire arrived on scene and through its mutual aid agreement, was eventually joined by crews from Kasson and Mantorville.
Roughly 40 firefighters fought the blaze, first from the front door of one of the townhomes and at the top of the stairs, then by way of ladder trucks spraying flames through the broken out windows.
"Everybody in the whole community came together, and everybody worked well," said Fire Chief Jeff Thorpe, at the time.
Following the fire, another Valley View resident, Alisha Garrett, kicked off a massive effort to raise everything from clothes to furniture for the families affected by the fire.
The response was substantial, and donations filled nearly three garages.
"A lot of people have thanked me for doing this," Garrett said last month. "It's weird to be thanked for something I think anybody should do. It's very humbling."
Louttit said the complex affected by the blaze will either be completely renovated or be rebuilt, with a decision to be made soon.
She expects it to be completely finished by July 1. Valley View Townhomes is owned by Premier Real Estate Management L.L.C.