Cause of Gus & Tony’s fire classified as “Undetermined”

Future of damaged buildings still being determined by appropriate agencies

Fire officials at both the local and state levels have classified the cause of the Monday, February 10 fire at Gus & Tony’s Pizza and Steakhouse in Waukon as “Undetermined,” according to information shared by Waukon Fire Chief Dave Martin. The fire destroyed the nearly four decade-strong restaurant business owned and operated by the Dave Bell family at 508 West Main Street, along with damaging two adjacent business buildings, as well as the residential living areas associated with each of the three buildings.

State of Iowa Fire Marshal Special Agent in Charge Ron Humphrey said that guidelines set forth by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) classify fire causes under one of four different rulings: Accidental (not the result of a deliberate, intentional, malicious act); Natural (with no human intervention); Incendiary (resulting from deliberate, malicious actions or circumstances in which the person starting the fire knows that it should not have been started); or Undetermined (the cause cannot be proven to an acceptable level of certainty). Humphrey further explained that fires will often be classified as “Undetermined” if there is not 100% certainty as to what actually caused the fire - especially in a case where there are multiple potential sources of ignition or multiple possible contributing factors, even though the location where the fire started may be easily determined.

In the case of the February 10 Gus & Tony’s blaze, fire officials said they know the general location of where the fire started, that being in the general cooking area of the grill located to the right when entering the restaurant’s front door. However, the fact that the grill, the large pizza oven and electrical and gas utilities are all located in that general area - compounded with the extensive damage and inability to completely assess that area of fire origin due to that damage and safety concerns with the building’s structural integrity - led to an inability to pinpoint the exact cause of the fire with the certainty Humphrey described as necessary to classify the cause as anything other than “Undetermined”.

With the cause of the fire now officially classified, the future of any of the three building structures at that 500 block corner location of West Main Street remains in the process of being determined by structural engineers, insurance companies, building owners and any other involved agencies. Based on social media posts and other provided information, the two other businesses directly impacted by the fire are waiting for structural integrity determination of their respective buildings that remain standing before being able to possibly resume business at those locations.

In the meantime, Edward Jones Investments, which was located in the building right next door to the destroyed restaurant, remains operational through different temporary office locations and is still accessible through its original office telephone number that is currently forwarding incoming calls. Waukon Chiropractic Center, located in the building farthest away from the restaurant and sustaining the least amount of damage of the three structures, is not currently holding office hours until that building can be thoroughly assessed.

In the initial coverage of the February 10 Gus & Tony’s fire, it was reported that the ladder used to rescue the mother, two children and their family dog from the second story of the burning Gus & Tony’s building was supplied by an A-OK Well Service truck. In actuality, the ladder used was from a CenturyLink service vehicle passing by the Gus & Tony’s location at the time of the fire.

Dan Mathis, an employee of A-OK Well Service also driving by, was reported as having climbed the CenturyLink ladder to the second floor window multiple times, from where he carried down the young boy and family dog prior to the mother making her own way down that ladder. The young girl reportedly began to make her way down the family’s own rescue ladder prior to the arrival of the CenturyLink ladder, with help from her mother above and additional passers-by below that reportedly included Mathis’ fellow A-OK Well Service employee Barry Nobles, along with Craig Lensing, Dan Liddiard, Allamakee County Sheriff Clark Mellick and Waukon Police Assistant Chief Luke Inglett, among others who arrived but were not readily identified.

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