Suspicious fire destroys home; probe continues

Posted: Monday, January 13, 2003

Central Emergency Services is investigating a suspicious fire that destroyed most of a small home on Gaswell Road on Sunday morning. No one was at home at the time of the blaze.

According to Fire Marshal Gary Hale, CES received a call reporting black smoke billowing from the eaves of the 450-square-foot loft-style house at 9:54 a.m. Sunday.

One fire engine, three tankers, a medic unit and a rescue truck were deployed to the scene, and the blaze was under control within nine minutes of the engine's arrival, Hale said. The fire was completely out after about 43 minutes.

Though firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze relatively quickly, Hale said the house and its contents sustained extensive damage. The shell of the house is still in tact, he said, but the front living room floor had burned through and fallen into a crawl space about three feet beneath the house before firefighters arrived.

A preliminary investigation determined the fire likely started in the crawl space, Hale said. But just what ignited the flames is unknown, as no one has been in the house for several days.

According to reports that neighbors gave investigators, the renter of the house is either in Mexico or on the North Slope and has not been home in weeks.

One neighbor reportedly was asked to watch the house, but said he was last inside the structure about a week ago.

Hale added that several phone messages had been left for the owner of the house, but he had not been reached by Sunday afternoon.

"We have some red flags raised. We're investigating it as suspicious," Hale said.

He could not, however, reveal why investigators had deemed the fire suspicious.

"There are some details we don't release during the investigation," he said.

Investigators will continue to look into the source of the blaze and conduct extensive interviews with the renter, owner and neighbors, Hale said.

The investigation will likely take at least three to four days.

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