Work begins at site of SOBO Lofts apartment fire, investigation continues

Posted at 3:44 PM, May 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-16 18:06:15-04

BOZEMAN – Three months ago, the construction site of a new apartment complex burned to the ground.

Since then, investigators have been trying to figure out what happened to SOBO Lofts.

If you drive by now, though, you might see work has started again at the site.

Throughout the day, crews have been working steadily within the fenced-in area.

At one point, a large bulldozer shovel was dropped off while other crews from Langlas & Associates contractors began power-washing the scorch marks from the concrete walls.

Yet, the investigation is still underway.

“The big question that I’m fielding or the fire department is fielding today and even the city is what now?” says Mike Maltaverne, Bozeman Deputy Fire Chief.

That question lingers as the skeleton of SOBO Lofts still sits burned behind chain-link fence.

Deputy Chief Maltaverne says a lot has been done since that night but the jury is still out on what happened.

“When a building is under construction like this without the interior walls, it is just a big pile of sticks, really,” Maltaverne says. “That building is in its most vulnerable time.”

Since then, Advanced Fire Investigations, Inc., a private investigator, has taken the case over.

“People wonder how did a building of this size and nature burn to the ground in the middle of the night,” Maltaverne says. “Well, this building was under construction. When that building is under construction, that means all of the protective systems that, by code, have to be installed in that building weren’t up and running.”

Clayton Burnett, the private fire investigator for this scene, confirmed the investigation is still underway, with debris and all evidence cleaned from the area.

Maltaverne says nothing has pointed to anything yet.

“There’s been a lot of theories out there about how this fire may have started,” Maltaverne says. “We don’t have any theories I can tell you based on the investigation at this point. There’s nothing that appears suspicious in our preliminary investigations.”

As for that “what now” question…

“That’s really a question left to the contractor,” Maltaverne says. “We see it. It’s been virtually cleaned up with the exception of the foundation so I know the community is kind of wanting to know what happens next and the city will wait and see what the contractor and the developer decide to do. Our assumption is some type of a building will be constructed here in the future.”

The private fire investigator told MTN News that he could not comment on crews being back here, working on site.

MTN News did reach out to Langlas and Associates; they have not gotten back to us.

Reporting by Cody Boyer for MTN News