- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Federal investigators got their first look inside a fire-gutted downtown Des Moines building on Tuesday.

Investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were in the building’s west side, The Des Moines Register reported (https://dmreg.co/1krI7md ). That section was not as badly damaged as the east section, where flames consumed entire floors.

Investigators are looking for spots that might have burned hotter than others, as well as indications of how the fire burned in an effort to determine what caused it, ATF spokesman John Hamm said.

The former Younkers building, built in 1899, was in the midst of a $36 million housing project renovation when it was consumed by fire early Saturday. It had been vacant since 2005.

Members of the ATF team include arson investigators, engineers and a chemist. They have conducted hundreds of interviews with firefighters and people who were around the building early Saturday morning as it burned, Hamm said.

The team is using 3-D forensic mapping that re-creates the inside of the Younkers building with exact measurements, Hamm said. The mapping can then be paired with a fire modeling program to develop theories of what caused the fire and where it started, he said.

Des Moines Fire Chief John TeKippe again warned people on Tuesday to avoid the area the destroyed building.

“There’s still a lot of glass hazard from being too close, especially in the winds today,” he said. “The adjacent properties are doing all they can to mitigate glass. But probably the best place to look at the building is on the Internet.”

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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