FULTON, Ill. — The Fulton Fire Department has determined that the Friday fire at the apartment complex at 208 10th Ave. in Fulton was accidental.

Fulton Fire Chief Don Damhoff said Monday the cause of the initial fire was a burning candle. A third-floor resident of the complex lit a candle shortly after Thursday night’s power outage at approximately 10:30 p.m. Damhoff said the candle ignited material in the apartment and the resident believed he had put the fire out sufficiently with a fire extinguisher that evening. The resulting investigation has shown that embers from the initial fire remained, smoldered for several hours and reignited a blaze that engulfed the upper level of the complex Friday morning.

The 125-year-old building is owned by ADR Enterprises, an Illinois company. Pastor Rob Miltenberger of the Victory Center Rescue Mission in Clinton is one of the building’s owners. Damhoff said in a phone interview Friday that the building may be a complete loss and may have to be torn down.

At Monday’s Fulton City Council meeting, Fulton City Administrator Randy Balk said a letter was given to Miltenberger earlier in the day, advising him of the city’s abatement process. Balk said the process entails appointing a three-person committee to determine the extent of the damage and if the committee feels the building is more than 50 percent damaged, the building must be demolished.

Balk said the ordinance allows only 30 days to complete demolition of the building for safety reasons and health concerns. The council approved a motion to appoint Damhoff, Sgt. Jim Miller of the Fulton Police Department and Fulton Zoning Officer Clink Kettler to the committee.

Balk discussed the effect the new water tower had on fighting the blaze. He said while citizens noticed a drop in water pressure, the new tower prevented the city from running out of water to extinguish the fire. Balk said if the old water tower had been in place, the tower would have run dry within the first hour or two of the fire. He added that having a dedicated water line tanker trucks could refill from at a second parking lot location offered greater safety and efficiency.

More than 20 area departments responded to the call for mutual aid to fight the blaze. Damhoff said Friday the supporting departments did a fantastic job and Fulton is grateful for their assistance. On Monday, Fulton Councilman Gene Field mentioned the council should express its thanks for the mutual aid by sending thank you letters to the fire departments that came to Fulton’s aid.

Councilman Bill Loerop, acting as mayor pro tem in Mayor Howard Van Zuiden’s absence, said expressing the city’s gratitude to the departments that responded to the call for aid was a very good idea.

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