Crews battle fire at Ankeny apartment that displaces dozens: ‘It was shocking’

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ANKENY, Iowa – An Ankeny apartment complex was destroyed by a massive fire Tuesday afternoon. It took several hours for crews from several departments to get it under control.

The fire is believed to have started on the third floor but between the smoke and the water used to put it out, everyone living there likely suffered damage.

It’s a scene no one wants to come home to, but one several did after a fire started at Walnut Ridge Apartments.

“It was shocking,” Joseph Vleeker, a resident, said. “You had half an hour to think about it on the commute right, but seeing it in person it was worse than I could’ve thought.”

Vleeker just moved in three months ago, and already has to find a new place to live.

“You make a list and figure out what’s gone, and what has to be replaced, and where you go forward from here,” he said. 

He’s one of dozens that has to figure out what to do next. Thankfully, the Red Cross is helping all of the residents in the 24-unit building in some way.

“In this COVID environment it’s more of a challenge,” Rob Inouye, senior disaster program manager with the American Red Cross, said. “We typically say we want to provide hope and hugs. We don’t do the hugs right now, but we do try to provide hope.”

While the cause is still unknown, officials have a good idea of where the fire might’ve started.

“As you can see by the building behind us, it looked like it started on the deck,” Daniel Schellhase, division chief of operations with the Ankeny Fire Department, said. “A lot of buildings have sprinkler systems on the deck for grills and outside fires that start. There’s no doubt that a sprinkler system may have stopped or prevented this fire from getting any worse. We do recommend sprinkler systems for both commercial and residential building just for that point.” 

An afterthought overshadowed by gratitude that everyone got out of the complex, and no one was injured.

Fire officials will return to the complex Wednesday morning to investigate the cause.

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