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Firefighters try to contain the fire that started in the Johnson Apartments, 1116 15th Ave., and spread west to the adjacent building at 1112 15th Ave. on Aug. 1 in East Moline. Both buildings were heavily damaged by the fire.

EAST MOLINE — The cause of the August fire that destroyed two downtown buildings may never be determined.

The fire began at about 11:45 a.m. Aug. 1 in the apartment building at 1116 15th Ave., according to the East Moline Fire Department. Firefighters fought the blaze for hours, but in the end, the apartment building and a nearby business, Eds Used Appliances, were heavily damaged. No one was hurt.

The fire is not believed to be an arson, but the cause and initial ignition point remained undetermined as of Tuesday, East Moline Fire Chief Rob Defrance said. The case is not considered closed, but those pieces of the puzzle may never be found. To explore further possibilities would require lab testing at the city's expense.

Department spokesmen have said previously that investigators determined the fire began in a second-floor apartment's living room before spreading to an attic and the apartment next door, but the damage was extensive enough that pinpointing the cause and initial materials that burned would be difficult. 

Removal of the ruins is underway. The demolition crew struck a gas line Monday morning, requiring a brief, limited evacuation and street blockage while the line was repaired. 

The day of the fire, the thick plume of smoke emitting from the site was visible from some distance away. Firefighters from Rock Island, Silvis, Moline, the Rock Island Arsenal, Hampton and Bettendorf all assisted East Moline firefighters during the fire. 

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