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Investigation finds that fire that destroyed hotel was intentional

Posted: Tuesday, June 11, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A fire that destroyed a hotel under construction in downtown Anchorage was intentionally caused by one or more people trespassing in the building, the Anchorage Fire Department said Monday.

The April 9 fire at the Aspen Hotel caused an estimated $5.2 million damage. The hotel had been scheduled to begin accepting guests June 1.

Investigators with the fire department have determined that the blaze began near a large gas-fired space heater in the lobby of the 90-room hotel, said fire department spokesman Tom Kempton.

Investigator Dan Diehl in his report said the fire was intentionally caused by transients living in the unfinished hotel.

''It was an intentional act that did it,'' Kempton said.

Diehl came to that conclusion after talking to other transients who were sleeping in the unfinished building. Transients had been in the building for about three months before the fire. Two escaped the blaze.

The fire was investigated by a 32-person team led by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Aspen, an Anchorage-based hotel chain, is rebuilding and now aims to have the hotel open on March 1, 2003. Aspen has bought or built hotels in recent years in Soldotna, Valdez, Fairbanks and Juneau.

The owners have said everything about the new hotel will be the same -- from the design to the colors -- but this time the construction site will have round-the-clock security.

The fire department also said Monday that a $2.5 million fire at a relocation company on May 29 was accidental. The fire at the Allison's Relocation warehouse in Anchorage was caused when heat tape wrapped on a water line inside a wall caused a spark. The blaze destroyed the warehouse and its contents.



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