April 21, 2010 10:24:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- It could be weeks before fire investigators make an official ruling on the cause of the Sunday morning blaze at Campus Trails Apartments, a senior fire official said Tuesday.
"We''re waiting on an official report from the state Fire Marshal''s office and that could be a couple of weeks," Oktibbeha County Fire Services Coordinator Kirk Rosenhan said. "We left the scene about 6 p.m. (Monday) and turned it over to the owners. They have their own fire people and structural engineers involved now."
Rosenhan said investigators are "looking real hard" at the southwest corner of the third floor of the building where the blaze began. He believes the fire started in the attic above the third floor apartment or in a breezeway, but doesn''t believe it started inside the unit.
"How and why is what we still have to figure out," Rosenhan said.
The fire began Sunday just before 10:20 a.m. at the complex off Blackjack Road, on the edge of the Mississippi State University campus. Oktibbeha County Sheriff''s Department deputies were the first to arrive on the scene and ran from door-to-door evacuating residents, all of whom were Mississippi State University students.
Five of seven volunteer fire departments in Oktibbeha County responded, as well as the Starkville Fire Department.
The blaze destroyed 24 apartments in buildings A and B, leaving 70 Mississippi State students displaced, according to a statement released by the university.
Starkville Fire Department Chief Rodger Mann gave a report to the Starkville Board of Aldermen Tuesday night regarding the string of fires in the area over the past several months. Nine people died in the Academy Crossing Apartments fire on Dec. 28, 2009, and a handful of smaller residential fires flared up in the months thereafter.
Most recently, the Crossgates Apartments fire on April 6 destroyed three buildings, damaged four others and displaced about 50 residents, mostly MSU students, and a house fire on Green Street Monday afternoon displaced one resident.
"Lately, we''ve had more (fires) than we''re accustomed to, which is why they''ve gotten everybody''s attention," Mann said. "But our city still experiences very few fires a year compared to other cities."
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman commended Mann and the county''s volunteer fire departments during Tuesday night''s 4 1/2-hour Board of Aldermen meeting.
"Let me take a moment to say I am very proud of our firefighters and you should be too," Wiseman told citizens in attendance.
"We''ve got a great group of guys working here," Mann said.
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