Fireworks blamed for Cedar Rapids house fire

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CEDAR RAPIDS — For the third time this year, fireworks are being blamed for a structure fire in Cedar Rapids.

This time, it was a two-alarm fire Monday night at 3455 Dalewood Ave. SE. The Cedar Rapids Fire Department was called to the home around 6:40 p.m. for a report of a fire due to fireworks. There, firefighters encountered a garage on fire and found the fire had spread to the second floor and attic of the home.

Firefighters entered the home and “encountered heavy fire in the attic and second floor,” according to the fire department. Crews were forced to exit the home and fight the fire from outside the residence.

Once the fire was brought under control, firefighters re-entered the home and extinguished the remaining fire. Fire officials said the home sustained “extensive” fire, smoke and water damage, displacing the residents.

Cedar Rapids public safety spokesman Greg Buelow said the property owner, 51-year-old Jens Eric Roulund, had been discharging 2-inch mortar shells — which had been purchased locally — from beneath a car port attached to a single-stall garage. Buelow said Roulund left his property with a mortar shell still in the launch cylinder.

“Thirty minutes later, there was a fire right where the mortar cylinder was,” Buelow said.

Buelow said the fire department doesn’t know how the fire started, but investigators confirmed it originated from where the fireworks had been discharged.

“The bottom line is the fireworks are the contributing factor that led to the fire,” he said.

The fire department has said fireworks were responsible for two other fires this year. On May 4, fireworks ignited near a garage at 411 G Ave. NW caught grass clippings on fire. That fire in turn spread to the garage.

On June 4, witnesses said they saw juveniles playing with fireworks near a garage at 512 12th St. SE about a half an hour before a fire started inside the garage and spread to the home, destroying the residence.

On Tuesday, the Iowa Department of Public Safety announced the number of fireworks retail licenses have topped 500. The State Fire Marshal’s Office also advised fireworks be used with caution, advising consumers to:

— Read the directions on the fireworks.

— Avoid using aerial rockets in populated areas.

— Keep fountain-style fireworks away from buildings.

— Talk with neighbors before using fireworks.

— Never point fireworks at others.

— Never use illegal fireworks.

Buelow said the Roulund was lawfully using legally obtained fireworks, but the fire department is investigating whether illegal fireworks were also involved. Illegal fireworks include more explosive devices such as M-80s and M-100s, according to the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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