No answers yet in pizzeria fire

Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Investigating officials have stalled their probe into the cause of the second fire that destroyed Pizza Pete's in Soldotna a week ago.

Fire erupted and ripped through the 37-year-old building not once, but twice early in the morning of Oct. 10. Soldotna Central Emergency Service volunteers were able to quickly extinguish the initial blaze, but the second took about two hours to get under control. Before it was completely put out, the blaze had burned out the floor and destroyed the structure's interior.

CES marshal Gary Hale said the insurance investigator assigned to the case stopped the investigation. Hale said the investigator, Gerald Anderson, from Unified Investigations in Everett, Wash., determined the condition of the basement wall where the second blaze started to be a safety hazard.

"The foundation wall of the basement front is leaning in," Hale said. "With approximately two-and-a-half to three feet of compacted fire debris in that location. He felt that removing the debris, we had no idea whether it would interfere with the safety of that wall or the personnel around it."

Hale said Anderson was not going to do any further digging near the wall. Anderson was on his way back to Everett at press time and was unavailable for comment.

Soldotna police have also found their hands tied in the investigation and are hesitant to identify the fire as being more than just that.

"We are not saying it was arson," said Sgt. Tod McGillivray. "We are not saying it was an accident.

"We are saying it was a fire."

McGillivray said evidence from the scene is still being analyzed, but he did not know when he could expect results.

His investigation, he said, has included interviews with five witnesses.

Minas and Efosyni Charalam-bous, the registered owners of Pizza Pete's, lost between $600,000 and $800,000, according to estimates from Northern Adjusters, the Soldotna property appraisers for the restaurant.

The owners could not be contacted, but their lawyer, Chuck Robinson, said they plan to begin rebuilding, "as soon as possible."

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