Fire at KCK federal courthouse ruled accidental and electrical, ATF says

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Investigators have determined that a fire Tuesday night at the federal courthouse in Kansas City, Kansas, was accidental.

The fire seemed a little suspicious to some who work in the courthouse, coming on the eve of the presidential inauguration.

But the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is leading the investigation now, said Wednesday afternoon, they have found nothing that would indicated the fire was intentionally set or an act of arson.

A spokesman later said the fire has been ruled accidental and electrical in nature.

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A police officer spotted smoke coming from the building at about 8 p.m. No one was inside, but firefighters encountered a lot of toxic fumes as they worked to put the fire out.

Even early Wednesday morning, the fire marshal said toxic levels of smoke remained in the upper two floors of the courthouse.

According to the fire department, the fire appears to have started inside a crawl space.

Ever since the Oklahoma City bombing, federal courthouses have had a lot of security measures put in place. That made it challenging for firefighters to battle the blaze and then ventilate the building.

“There are multiple different doorways that are locked,” said John Droppelmann, KCK fire marshal. “When they finally found the floor they thought it was on, we had to breach numerous secure doors and offices, only to find out it was trapped between floors. Then we had to cut through some solid marble on the outside to get some water on it.”

The ATF is now working with the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI, the Kansas State Fire Marshals Office and the KCK Police Department in investigating the fire.

Marshals are reviewing surveillance camera footage, and electrical engineers will examine the damaged areas. Droppelmann said there are “no signs of intrusion from the outside.”

The courthouse was closed Wednesday as officials investigated.

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