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Jul 18, 2013 7:20 PM by Brian White

'Castle' house fire determined to be "human caused"

UPDATE (July 18, 2013) - Investigators with the Tucson Fire Department have concluded that the cause of the fire was "human caused," Tucson Fire Department spokesman Cpt. Barret Baker said.

TUCSON - Smoke from a three story house fire was seen as far away as Rita Ranch, Tucson Fire spokesman Cpt. Barret Baker said.

The fire was "heavily involved in flames" with a house in the 800 block of West Green Street, Baker said.

No one was inside the house at the time. Neighbors said it was being remodeled. Crews fought the fire from the outide with hoses.

The fire was contained in 28 minutes. Ten units and 23 firefighters responded to the scene. No injuries were reported.

Fire investigators are on the scene Monday afternoon to determine a cause. The house was a total loss but dollar estimates were not immediately available.

Jose Herrera, who owns the house, started building it in 1995. He owns Umbrella Roofing, LLC and the project was delayed several times because of costs and because he was focused on his roofing business. He says this would have been his dream home, a place to hold family get togethers. "I did my best, I tried so hard to build this house and when something like this happens theres nothing you can do," Herrera says.

Neighbors often refer to the home as "The Castle" because of its size compared to all the other homes. "It's a mansion to us," Neighbor Maria Ruiz says. "So we all thought it was going to make our neighborhood look good, but now this happened."

Other neighbors were upset over the amount of time it was taking Herrera to build the home. In 2010 the City of Tucson Code Enforcement brought a case against Herrera, requesting him to finish construction.

In 2012 the city took Herrera to court and issued a citation and since that court date Herrera had finally made progress.

The last inspection took place in May 2013 and Teresa Williams with Code Enforcement says most of the outside of the house was complete. "This is a long term project and I just hate to see it end this way because it doesn't help a neighborhood to have a missing building," Williams says.

Fire crews had to tear what was left of the house down on Monday for safety reasons. Now it is up to Herrera to clean up the mess left behind.

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