Downtown Auburn fire causes millions in damage

Investigators are still working to determine the cause of the fire.

Investigators are still working to determine what caused the fire that consumed the Max House Apartments on Main Street in downtown Auburn during the early hours of July 24.

“The investigator is waiting on two pieces of evidence to come back from the lab and then he’s hoping to make a cause determination,” said public information office Kimberly Terhune. “He has to analyze that and compare it to all of his other notes to come up with the cause determination.”

It could take weeks for the evidence to come back from the lab, Terhune said.

Although the cause is not yet known, the Valley Regional Fire Authority has estimated the cost of the damage done by the fire. The building, which includes seven businesses and 15 apartment units, sustained an estimated $1.7 million in structural damage, Terhune said.

An additional $1.25 million worth of damage was done to the contents of the building. This includes personal belongings and products from the businesses, Terhune said.

Around 30 residents of the Max House Apartments were displaced by the fire.

The Valley Regional Fire Authority on July 28 reported a detailed description of the fire:

Firefighters responded to a report of smoke in the area at 1:30 a.m. July 24. When they arrived at around 1:40 a.m., a Max House resident called to report flames above their unit. The crew confirmed the presence of flames and called in more support.

The fire grew rapidly and more calls from residents came in, reporting the fire was blocking the stairwells and that they could not escape. A team of VRFA firefighters controlled the flames in the stairwells and some firefighters used their bodies to shield the residents from the flames so they could escape.

At the same time, firefighters on the ground set up ladders to help two residents escape from their unit. A man and woman jumped onto the roof of the Auburn Avenue Theater and were rescued. A pet rabbit and bearded dragon were also saved by the firefighters and reunited with their owners.

Once the building was searched and everyone was evacuated, firefighters began fighting the fire from outside due to the severity of the fire. The VRFA received assistance from several neighboring agencies and were able to extinguish the blaze by 6:34 a.m.

No firefighters or residents were injured in the fire.