Authorities rule out suspicious circumstances in Kaiserslautern shoppette fire
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — U.S. military and German investigators have ruled out suspicious circumstances as the cause of an early morning fire Monday that destroyed the shoppette at Kleber Kaserne and forced the temporary closure of the adjoining child development center, an Army official said Tuesday.
But hampered by unsafe conditions, officials said they haven’t yet determined what exactly ignited the blaze that took about 50 U.S. military and German firefighters some four hours to extinguish, said U.S. Army Garrison-Kaiserslautern spokesman Mark Heeter. Roof tiles continue to fall at the shoppette, he said.
It’s not known how officials were able to rule out a criminal act, but Heeter said U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Command, commonly known as CID, and German police investigators took themselves out of the probe.
“Military authorities are investigating,” Heeter said Tuesday.
In the meantime, plans are moving forward with setting up temporary retail operations in a tent less than 50 yards from the old shoppette, with the goal of opening this week, Heeter said.
The tent was erected before the fire as a temporary store location while the shoppette had its roof repaired. But no inventory had been transferred before the fire. Heeter said he did not know how the Army and Air Force Exchange Service planned to stock the shelves.
While a shoppette will exist somewhere on Kleber, the shoppette will not be rebuilt on its current site due to the extent of damage, Heeter said.
“It’s too early to say what the end state is going to be,” he said. “AAFES provides this quality of life service that’s very, very important to everyone on Kleber. Someone’s going to have to come up with a solution.”
AAFES officials said Tuesday that they would be releasing a statement about the fire.
Military officials are still assessing the cost of damages, Heeter said.
Spaces for the 50 to 60 children enrolled at the Kleber child development center and displaced by the blaze were provided by Tuesday at Landstuhl child development centers, Heeter said. The plan is to get the kids back into the Kleber facility, but military officials don’t know how soon they’ll be able to do that. The building sustained smoke and water damage and part of its roof burned in the fire.