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Oct-01-2008 22:22printcomments

Oregon Capitol Fire 'Most Likely Accidental in Nature'

Investigators fail to determine exact cause of costly state capitol fire.
Photo courtesy: Salem Fire

(SALEM, Ore.) - A fire that happened after midnight August 30th at the Oregon State Capitol, located at 900 Court St NE, caused no injuries. The blaze did alarm many at the state house as it quickly caused damage to an area of the building close to the Governor's office.

Bill Holmstrom with Salem Fire says his agency conducted a detailed investigation, assisted by the Oregon State Police Arson & Explosives Section and ATF agents, but the agencies were unable to determine what actually started the fire.

"Supplemental investigations were also conducted by three private fire investigators hired by insurance companies. Evidence at the scene was examined, witnesses and building maintenance staff interviewed, along with employees of the contractor who were working in the area prior to the fire," Holmstrom said.

He explained that the fire investigation team found the fire to have started on the second floor exterior south side terrace outside the Governor's Ceremonial Room, adding "This area was being used by a contractor to store materials and tools for the terrace re-sealing project."

The fire was able to spread to nearby combustible roofing and coating materials Holmstrom said, causing the fire to grow quickly before the fire was reported by witnesses.

"The fire was able to penetrate into the interior of the building through the glass exterior doors and windows on the south side of the Governor's Ceremonial Office. Fire and heat damage observed by fire investigators was consistent with a fire originating on the exterior of the building."

He says that from the investigation, fire investigators were able to eliminate a variety of sources of ignition through examination and laboratory testing of materials and equipment found near the area of origin. These included items such as electrically powered tools, adhesive chemicals, torches, and lighting equipment.

"Though the exact cause of the fire remains undetermined, fire investigators concluded that the fire was most likely accidental in nature."

Examination of the fire scene revealed numerous improperly discarded cigarettes among the equipment and materials being stored on the terrace near the area of origin of the fire. It was reported however that this provided no evidence that the fire was intentionally set or involved any criminal acts.

Cigarettes now sold in Oregon are required to be the "fire safer" type, less prone to causing fires.

But Holmstrom said that some of the workers on the terrace where the fire started are from the State of Washington. That statte's governor signed into law a "fire safer" cigarette bill similar to Oregon's earlier this year, but it is not effective until August 1st 2009.

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