A two-alarm fire that destroyed a northwest Omaha apartment building Wednesday was found to have been caused by improperly discarded smoking materials.

Scott Fitzpatrick, an Omaha Fire Department battalion chief, said Thursday that investigators determined that the fire near 108th and Fort Streets was accidental. The building at 10857 Arlington Plaza had 24 apartments and was valued at $1,070,692, excluding contents.

A Red Cross spokesman said the agency was assisting 18 families that were impacted by the fire, including by helping them find temporary housing.

Fitzpatrick said improperly discarded smoking materials is one of the leading causes of fires in the Omaha area. That includes cigarettes, cigars, matches and lighters that ignite other materials.

He urged people to make sure that they put those items in containers that won’t catch fire, like a metal bucket with sand or water.

“People think that cigarette is out, and they throw it in a flower pot or on a deck with leaves,” Fitzpatrick said. “It can sit there and smolder and catch that stuff on fire. You might think it was out, but it wasn’t out all the way.”

World-Herald staff writer Alia Conley contributed to this report.

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kevin.cole@owh.com, 402-444-1272

Alia Conley covers breaking news, crime, crime trends, the Omaha Police Department and initial court hearings. Follow her on Twitter @aliavalentine. Phone: 402-444-1068.

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